Saturday, August 29, 2015

"The Waterfall" by My Morning Jacket Disappoints

My Morning Jacket
     My Morning Jacket, a Louisville band with a deserved national reputation, has become a major independent neo-psychedelic rock band.  If they’d formed in 1992 instead of 1998, they would probably have become mainstream stars.  Instead, they’ve charted a more intriguing course by not selling out.  They’re almost legendary as a live band because they’ll play one of their entire albums and then cover five or more songs by various other artists that wouldn’t seem to fit them at all.  We haven’t seen them live, but know them from Evil Urges (2008) and Circuital (2011).  These are two great albums that are almost symphonic in their ambitions to collect songs into a greater whole and to refer to a range of ‘60s through millennial styles.  

Lead Singer and
Songwriter Jim James
     Their latest album The Waterfall fuses ‘70s progressive rock with ‘70s southern rock (Deep Purple meets Lynyrd Skynyrd) and refashions it with their mumblecore sensibility.  What I mean is that they’re low-key, type B personalities who put the music first and chat, but don’t really speak.  Lead singer and songwriter Jim James feels like Mark Duplass’s character in Your Sister’s Sister (2011) if he were a musician.  On Palladia’s Storytellers series, James talked interminably with a sweet sincerity that was both refreshing and excruciating.  

     The Waterfall acts as a stop gap between more major works and may not be the best jumping off point for new listeners.  It takes forever to take off with its fourth track “Waterfalls.”  As a band, they’re generous to a fault and want to play all night long in the tradition of The Grateful Dead or Phish.  Good for them!  Unfortunately, jammin’ along on an album can become too much of a good thing, especially if it’s a cut that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Things get really interesting around the eighth and ninth cuts (“Big Decisions,” “Tropics (Erase Traces)”) that utilize some musical phrasing from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (1975), thereby uniting English and American baroque arena rock of the ‘70s before bogging down again with “Only Memories Remain.”  Those memories are from the first three tracks, which I didn’t want to remember.  They sing an abbreviated version at the end, thereby informing the listener how tough it is to get over a break-up.  Yup, it’s sad all right.  I can’t wait for their next album.

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