My Morning Jacket CD review

On the equally horny “Highly Suspicious,” James soars again in feminine mode, crooning like Prince over a thumping back beat custom made for club play. The song’s addictive-quality is off the chart, a pop fix unlike anything in the band’s canon. Amazingly, the same album also features tarcks such as “Sec Walkin,” a slice of steel guitar-kissed space rock that floats through the speakers like a DayGlo tumbleweed. On the shimmering mid-tempo number “Two Halves” James addresses the aging process with the sagacity and good humor of a content man old enough to put youth’s charms in perspective.

The body image subject matter of the acoustic-guitar-and-strings profile “Librarian” is as fascinating as it is heart wrenching. “Karen of the Carpenters, singing in the rain,” James intones, his reedy voice teeming with pathos, “another lovely victim of the mirror’s evil way.” A couple tracks later, listeners are blasted with the first-rate arena rocker (replete with guitar hero solo) “Aluminum Park,” a song that begs for a sing along, fist pumping and Bic waving.

Many bands have aspired to genre-busting greatness in recent years, but few, if any, have succeeded so thoroughly as MMJ does with Evil Urges, easily one of the most diverse and satisfying albums to emerge in the new millennium. It’s filler free and proves more rewarding with each listen. In fact, it’s hard to imagine MMJ or any other American rock act — Wilco included — topping this album in the foreseeable future. 4.5 stars 5 stars

Evil Urges


Ato Records/Red

Pundits have been trying to define My Morning Jacket since the band first arrived on the scene a decade ago. In the beginning, people filed the reverb-loving rockers under “alt-country” and even “southern rock” thanks to the band’s Bluegrass State homebase. A galvanizing 2004 performance at Bonnaroo and subsequent, more experimental releases, especially 2006’s live album Okonokos, landed My Morning Jacket in the “jam band” bin.

But none of the labels truly did the quintet’s music justice and MMJ’s latest release, Evil Urges, is the band’s most gloriously eclectic studio album to date. It’s also the band's finest, with each stylistic leap serving the song rather than sounding like hubris-driven experimentalism. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than on the title-track that opens the disc, a thick-yet-fluid hybrid of futuristic funk, precision prog and dream pop that serves as a genius update on the free love and tolerance ethos of the 1960s. Frontman Jim James adopts a sexy falsetto to winningly deliver memorable lines like, “It ain’t evil, baby, if ya ain’t hurting anybody.”

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