Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Morning Jacket | Evil Urges

After releasing 2005's Z, My Morning Jacket entered the mainstream spotlight, ready to inherit the mantle of alternative rock's next big thing. But a funny thing happened. The jam-band scene embraced their supreme live shows - though the group rarely jams - and now they are farther away from the mainstream and closer to being festival gods. Faced with this cognitive dissonance on their latest record Evil Urges, the band simply chooses not to pick a style and justify it. Rather they relish in the contradiction, creating subtle alt-country tunes and space rock excursions.

And they also pause for funk. "Highly Suspicious," easily the most adventurous and hilarious track on the album, is a mix between Southern rock, Prince, and metal-Devo. Jim James sings in a peerless falsetto as drummer Patrick Hallahan does his best Bambaataa beat. A dark, paranoid chant and a guitar solo that would make Skynyrd proud elevate the chorus to postmodern heights. Where this tune incorporates a pastiche of modern pop music, various tracks are sober, country-inspired ditties.

"Thank You Too!," "Sec Walkin'," and "Look At You" are tunes where James's pastoral musings on love and identity are given room to breathe with the earthy arrangements. Carl Broemel's work on the lap steel augments the country atmosphere on the songs and James's exquisite melodies bring the pathos. The closing suite - "Smokin' From Shootin'" and "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2" - package the country and electro tendencies in a sprawling, freewheelin' epic.

"Smokin'" begins gently and slowly intensifies to a soaring bass and guitar harmony. The rumbling drums and lap steel push and pull at each other while the harmony and vocals barely hover above them. "Touch Me Pt. 2," on the other hand, is a space dance number inspired more by Pink Floyd than Daft Punk. Disco drums and short chromatic bass fills propel the rhythm as the keys play the main melody. In the denouement, James's high pitch melodious screams mirror the chord changes in the chorus. And the chorus mirrors how you should feel while listening to this record: "Oh, this feeling it is wonderful/don't you ever turn it off!"
(Photo credit: Laurie Scavo)

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