My Morning Jacket
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by T.J. Simon
One of the real pleasures about listening to Jim James and his bandmates in My Morning Jacket is that no one else in music today does what they do. The Kentucky rock band is certainly a product of the American South, but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole My Morning Jacket as simply southern rock. Instead, the group fuses the ethereal nature of Radiohead with the classic rock sensibility of The Who to create a sound that is entirely unique. Although the album has some imperfect moments, the ensembleís latest release Z contains enough stellar songs to make it a fitting follow-up to its 2003 masterpiece It Still Moves.
Z was produced by James along with Abbey Road Studios veteran John Leckie (XTC, Pink Floyd, The Verve), and the entire disc is a richly textured trip through modern rock. Z is decidedly less jam-oriented than its predecessor, and the production duo also turned down (but not off) the vocal reverb that lent such a cavernous air to It Still Moves. The opening track Wordless Chorus is driven by a funky keyboard bass line and Jamesí lusty, soulful falsetto, which sounds like a flock of angels on the multi-track chorus. The albumís best number is Off the Record, which sounds like The Clashís reggae experimentation mutated with The Who. Itís one of the best rock songs of the year, and itís easily mistakable for a classic rock cover. The Pete Townshend/Roger Daltry influence also shines through loud and clear on the invigorating Anytime.
Jamesí lyrics are often buried beneath the beguiling, multi-layered instrumentation, which isnít necessarily a bad thing. The Woods, one of Zís weaker cuts, showcases some creepy lyrics ó "A baby on fire/A kitten in a blender" ó which would be okay if only the tune could prop up the song. It doesnít. Likewise, Dondante is another missed opportunity as the slow, overlong album closer never really goes anywhere. However, these misfires are more than mitigated by the cool guitar work on Lay Low and the compelling, dreamy rock of It Beats for You.
Z is a decidedly less ambitious affair than It Still Moves, but it also is extremely accessible. The lengths of the songs are shortened this time, which makes each individual track more digestible and less of a challenge. Z is not a flawless record, but its best moments are some of the finest in recent memory.
Of Further Interest...
Z is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box