My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges


To paraphrase Beck, if Evil Urges were one long note it would flash off some sick 17-octave range and put Celine Dion in a straight-up headlock. It’s rare enough to find a well constructed album, but when a group of rapidly rising rockers rip off something this tightly diverse, well, the general public is sure to get put on notice come June 10th, the album’s public release date. 

Urges spreads itself out across various genres, which is a serious (and well-timed) diversion from the typical spacey southern rock My Morning Jacket usually cranks out. Structurally, it reminds a lot of  Beck’s Midnite Vultures, it combines sets of juxtaposed styles that somehow fit neatly in place throughout.

In short, it could serve as a national coming-out party for My Morning Jacket, an already popular but still tragically hip group of musicians. The difference between Evil Urges and most attempts at popularity is that Urges doesn’t feel like a forced attempt. Instead, it manages to both open the band’s sound and make it more mainstream-friendly. That’s no easy feat.

The opener, which is the title track and likely second single, comes out with a tight little wah-wah cut, lulling the listener to sleep just before breaking into a funky rhythmic verse that sets the stage for a varying range of nasty funk, stone cold rock, soulful wailing and tender breakdowns. All are delivered with lead singer Jim James’ slight sprinkle of social commentary.

"Highly Suspicious," like the title track, might as well have Prince accompanying on vocals the way James shreds through high pitched verses before the rest of the band jumps in on darkened and almost satirical titlistic chants during the chorus. It’s broken up by thumping bass lines and funked-up guitar riffs.

The middle half of the album is speckled with some zeitgeist; James drops the Brahsome-fav phrase "interweb" on "Librarian", a slow ode to what plays out in the imagination as a nerdily bespectecled beauty lost behind stacks of books and a shifting cultural medium. (Maybe she’s blogging?)

That’s not to say that Urges is too much of a move away from what you’re used to, though. Several other tracks  – "Sec Walkin’”, "Look at You" and both parts of “Touch Me…”, for example are paced similarly but kick out a little more of the alt-country twang and hypnotizing, echoed verses, respectively.

As for "Alumninum Park" and "Two Halves", well, they should be spoon-fed to seniors in high school, sufficiently past the majority of their angst and willing to roll the windows down and jam out to a well-penned rock song with a touch of pop and a hint of cheese hidden among the distortion.

The real gem of the album is "I’m Amazed,"  which is sadly also the single, meaning it won’t keep its pristine status for long. Its perfectly crafted, repetitive and catchy build will bob heads to the rhythm while simultaneously nodding them to James’ quick lines about the "lack of evolution" and "lack of faith" before getting disrupted by a face melting guitar solo three minutes in.

And not to overhype what everyone’s already heard, but that sequence — slow build, discovery, face-melt — sums up the album pretty well, even if the noise is a slight deviation from what Jacket listeners are used to. Frankly, though, fans can’t even be angry. Just amazed.

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