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Arts and Culture

My Morning Jacket's Mystery Tour

Previews from the new album suggest a band still heading for destinations unknown.

By Adrian Mack 12 May 2011 | TheTyee.ca

Adrian Mack contributes a regular music column to The Tyee and frequently sits behind Rich Hope.

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My Morning Jacket seen here above an irony-free picture caption.

Although 2008's Evil Urges was considered a bit of a disappointment by some, I appreciated that My Morning Jacket was either fearless or reckless enough to put something like "Highly Suspicious" on what was expected to be a breakthrough record.

The song is just a grating, throwaway goof-off, and not a big deal in and of itself, but the point -- as Andrew Leahey's review at allmusic notes -- is the sequencing. "Highly Suspicious" is the third track on the album. It's a critical slot, and putting it there is an act of pure provocation. My Morning Jacket was demanding nothing less than your cooperation in its growth, no matter how painful (for you, not them -- they sound like they're having a gas).

Not that the band wasn't heading in that direction anyway, as anybody who'd filled their head with MMJ's previous nitrous-based forays into the white man's robofunk well knows. But there's still a huge and dangerous gap between the spectral wonder of "Wordless Chorus" from Z (2005) and this.

You can be sure that more than a few souls plunged into that gap and were lost forever. Farewell, fickle friends. If you're wondering, the rest of us have been recently sampling a handful of songs from upcoming album Circuital, released May 31, and finding that My Morning Jacket is still -- thank heavens -- in an experimental mood.

Title track "Circuital" is seven glorious minutes of the kind of space-bound country rock the band was doing from the very beginning. But "Holding On to Black Metal" sounds like The Go! Team crashing into a spy movie soundtrack by The Art of Noise, while the gong that opens "Victory Dance" points to an equally strange collision; in this case a pensive mid-tempo rocker that'll have you flashing back on both Pink Floyd and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds.

My Morning Jacket famously recorded vocals in a grain silo in order to give its early albums almost Aspergian levels of detail. That same intensity is folded into the band's constant forward movement, leaving us with a sort of Kentucky-bred version of Roxy Music driven to do perverse little things like de-emphasize its most obvious asset (James' voice, barely recognizable on at least one of the above tracks). It means you're either on the bus or you're off the bus with these guys. Obviously, I've got my seat. The best part is not caring where we go.  [Tyee]

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