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My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

A friend admonished his suggestion to listen to Evil Urges, hinting that My Morning Jacket was set to release something twisted and absolutely uncharacteristic, “It’s almost like MMJ thinks they can do whatever they want now;” my response, “they can’t?” I thought it fitting that the gravity of a sound that has nestled the band so close to a jam-centric culture now seems plausible ammunition for revolt. The band’s latest pulls from sounds so wide in comparison to what has become expected of them that it’d be hard for any historic fan not to wince…if only momentarily however, as it shifts and casts different shades suggesting to be not only the band’s most creative outing to date, but a fitting complement to 2005’s Z.

My concluding thoughts on the band’s 2006 DVD Okonokos lead me to a feeling that there wouldn’t be a complementary understanding between myself and the band for quite some time, “Despite the music, the allure of the band’s unfashionable roots-based fans and the unique stage setting this still makes no sense. Be warned, this is Okonokos.” It wasn’t that the spectacle of the DVD or the music behind it made little sense to me, both were in fact quite spectacular, it was that there was an ideal that seemed to rule the feeling I took away from the experience. Not having been a fan for too long at the time, the almost innocent voice of Jim James revelling in the unique compositions still left a suggestion that there could be something else. A different direction, different sounds or just plain something else somewhere in the future – I didn’t understand why such pursuits weren’t being followed. However for better or for worse on the album, amongst the expected sounds of tracks such as the amazing “Evil Urges,” the band does take aim at itself with such iconoclast pieces as “Highly Suspicious.” And with hearing that song in particular the band honestly starts to make sense to me.

James said of the album recently that one of the struggles the band had with its creation was in its attempt to show people that “music isn’t really as different as they think it is,” therein lies the one line that best defines the difference in approach that the listener should too take with listening to Evil Urges. For the most part the album is going to sound just as one would expect it should. It will have lashing moments of culmination that elevate even the quietest of moments – but when debris is tossed into its spokes and the album changes abruptly, James suggests that the band isn’t really straying at all.

In 1994 one of James’ friends, Eddie Vedder, released Vitalogy with Pearl Jam – an album that saw an almost fanatical reception upon its release despite it incorporating a few unique tangents. For the most part, it sounded characteristically Pearl Jam – “Spin The Black Circle” revealed a slightly sharper edge while songs as “Satan’s Bed” seemed wild, yet likely cuts for the mix. It might not be fair to compare these two albums, let alone say that “Highly Suspicious” is Evil Urges “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”-moment, but it may be fair to say that whatever comes next from the band may be directly related to the progressive jump made by Vedder and crew back during grunge’s dying days.

Pushing with forward motion are tracks like the aforementioned “Evil Urges,” “Remnants” and “Aluminum Park;” the last sounding like a direct bridge between Z and this album. While the Vitalogy-kinship may be a stretch this album certainly contentment in knowing that the band is alive and well.

The opening lyrics of “Sec Walkin’” deeply slumped in “Three Times a Lady” offer a melody so honestly comforting that in comparison to its surrounding tracks it sounds almost kitschy. Likewise, “Thank You Too,” sounds almost too uniquely My Morning Jacket, its gracefully bouncy ballad refusing to tremble amongst its delicate lyrics and underlined beat. Call Evil Urges a culmination of influence, call it a small step forward, but whatever you do don’t think that you’d still be out of line in calling the band America’s best.