The first few albums from My Morning Jacket were haunting, twangy gems that sprang from their Kentucky roots. The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn were so reverby and echo-laden they sounded like they were recorded in an abandoned grain silo … because they were. I had the band tucked away in my mental CD shelf as a spooky, charismatic folk band, kind of a pleasant novelty.
Then I saw them live. I will never forget it. It was at the Sasquatch music festival, way back in 2003. I recognized their name on the schedule and wandered over to the small second stage, thinking it would be a quiet, dreamy set, a chance to rest and space out.
Out they come in full classic-rock regalia — tight jeans, beards, hair down to their waists, carrying flying-V guitars — and proceed to rock my f*cking face off. Seriously. My brain melted. To this day I think it might be the most righteous full-on rock show I’ve ever seen. I’ve still got a crick from banging my head.
Obviously I had misjudged them. And sure enough, since those early albums, the band has been expanding its palette, getting tighter and more adventurous. Now they’re frequently compared to Radiohead, another band that escaped its genre cage and became a restless, experimental force of nature, sui generis.
I thought 2005’s Z was freaky, but it’s nothing compared to Evil Urges, due out on June 10. I’m sure it’s going to polarize their fans, because it is really all over the place. There’s vintage classic rock jams, pretty pop songs, radio-ready ballads, and several jams that can only be described as grimy white-boy R&B. With the funky bass and high falsetto, it sometimes veers close to “Debra” territory, but somehow they sell it.
Personally, I love it. This song is called “Evil Urges.”
I say to you sincerely: If you ever get a chance to see these guys play live, you must take it. It will change your life. Or at least melt your brain. To get a sense of what I’m talking about, check out this video of them playing on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2006 (check out O’Brien’s reaction at the end):