SCI Fidelity Records, 2004
REVIEW BY: Tammy Childs
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/23/2005
Known for their improvisational rock, Umphrey's McGee is the obscure Brendan Bayliss on guitar and vocals; fiery Jake Cinninger on guitar, Moog, synthesizers and vocals; complementary Joel Cummins on keyboards and vocals; solid Andy Farag on percussion; energetic Kris Myers on drums and vocals and charismatic Ryan Stasik on bass.
Self-claimed A.D.D. sufferers, this diversely talented group infuses pop, classic rock, jazz and funk into their make-it-up-as-you-go style and it results in imaginative and unique melodies. They've performed at numerous festivals such as South by Southwest, New Orleans Jazz and the Wakarusa Festival (located in Lawrence, Kansas, my home state). Described as "… a band that likes the audience to think while they're dancing," the expectation is that each song will be expressive both lyrically and musically.
"Jajunk" is a frantic piece, rock-driven with multi-dimensional chords overlapping and layering, developing an original sound. "Bullhead City" is a country tune with Cinninger as lead vocalist. It is six minutes of concise vocals and a blend of world influence. "In The Kitchen" has quick, simplistic vocals with punk-rock music that twists and turns into soft rock. This song cruises through various forms of rock: punk, soft rock and a smattering of funk and alternative.
"Miss Tinkle's Overture" is dedicated to and originated by Joel Cummins. Evidently based on an experience of bad aim on the tour bus - he accidentally peed on Stasik's sleeping bag -- the song starts with a frenzy and frenetically challenges your brain to keep up, leaving your ears roaring.
Frank Zappa wasn't there, but he might as well have written "Robot World", an enraged, somewhat chaotic view of McGee's musical world. It is tiresome, and since I never liked Zappa, why would I like this song? But "Pequod" is a welcomed relief; it is still multi-layered, as is obviously this group's style, but it is softer and gentler. It is also clever, but more open for appreciation.
Supposedly Umphrey McGee's music is "for parched heads out there begging for some depth and complexity," but I must disagree. I think it dehydrates the listener. Although the music is agile and able to twist and pervert in many different directions at one time, there is no time for it to sink in or for thought to take place. I became exhausted by the frustrating pace -- I acknowledge the creative side of this band and that their talent exists, but the music is not for me.
On the other hand, if you're a fan of Phish, Frank Zappa or are an A.D.D. sufferer, this album could be an explosion of entertainment.
[For more information, visit www.umphreys.com]