Thursday, June 19, 2008

Evil Urges

My Morning Jacket
Evil Urges
ATO, 2008

My Morning Jacket’s 2005 album Z is one of my favorite records of the last few years. It defies classification – a little jam band, a little southern classic rock, a little indie rock, a little prog, and all awesome. I was excited for Evil Urges in a way that I don’t get excited about music much anymore. What were they gonna do this time? When you make a masterpiece, where do you go from there?

A lot of bands have tried to answer that question. Some, like Radiohead, go off into a radically different direction. Some, like My Bloody Valentine, fall apart, others try to recapture that magic to increasingly diminishing returns, while still others, like …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, try to expand their sound and end up with something closer to mediocrity than genius.

Which brings me to Evil Urges. From the opening chords of the title track, you know the boys are trying to be on some next level shit. Prince falsettos? Funky guitar work? Um, ok. Does it work? Sort of. Is it good? Mmmm….well, it’s not actively bad. How’s that?

“Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 1” is better, and shows the band expanding on their prog tendencies (like having a two-part song). They try to get their rock on on a few songs. “Remnants” sounds a like a Seattle circa flannels and heroin; “Aluminum Park” is a classic MMJ uptempo number. Their biggest stretch, and their biggest failure, is “Highly Suspicious,” which is so bad I didn’t download it.

They also play it mellow and safe, with mixed results. “The Librarian” is a tender love song that has some of the albums best and worst lyrics. No band that isn’t the Bare Naked Ladies should ever use “interweb” in its lyrics. MMJ redeem that party foul with lines like “what is it inside our heads that makes us do the opposite?/
Makes us do the opposite of what's right for us?”

“Sec Walking” and “Look At You” are wailing alt-country that are heartbreakingly great, but their Skynard-esque “I’m Amazed” is hampered by horrible lyrics and sounds kind of like an ad for a big truck.

In the end, Evil Urges doesn’t deserve either the four stars Rolling Stone gave it, or the 4.7 of 10 that uber-snobs Pitchfork awarded it. The truth is that it is pretty good, but hardly fucking amazing. That means that it is worth checking out, but a disappointment coming after Z.

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