After 20 years together, Umphrey’s McGee have yet to release something predictable. Approximately a year and a half ago the band released Zonkey, a mashup album displaying the individual mastery of each member in a cohesive way. This raised their bar of expectation from listeners. Thus, their next release must continue to impress and surprise an increasingly insatiable fan base. The band’s unpredictable diversity is what has made them one of the most unique and successful jam bands ever.
Umphrey’s McGee’s latest album, it’s not us, was released yesterday. And boy, is it evident that they’ve been together for a while. it’s not us is an 11-song, 52 minute showcase of other-worldly musicianship blended with a genuine appreciation for all genres. Yet, as polished and intricate as each song is, the album still holds true to a raw authenticity that charm attendees of live performances. Typically, at an Umphrey’s McGee show, the band will thrust the audience through a musical journey powered by sharp, abrupt turns to different genres within and between songs. And over the 20 years they’ve been together, the members of Umphrey’s McGee have gotten really good at it. it’s not us displays a true mastery of the art of surprise. We welcome it.
Even though the songs can appear random and disconnected, Umphrey’s McGee has a plan. “The Silent Type”, which starts off the album with a new groovy pop-rock vibe, is interestingly powered by a dance between Kris Myers’ heavy beat and Brendan Bayliss’ perfectly histrionic lyrics, while Jake Cinninger adds the heat with his speedy riffs and flourishes. The lead single transitions into a more familiar Umphrey’s McGee sound in the album’s last single “Looks”. The album suddenly and unexpectedly transitions from upbeat and poppy to a metallic and calculated space-rock similar to “Puppet String” and “Plunger”. The band then ventures into a mellow and acoustic-folky realm in “You And You Alone” to follow up a fan-favorite “Remind Me”, of which concludes with a Mastadon-esque outro. After a brighter future fan-favorite in “Forks”, Umphrey’s McGee turns to saxophonist Joshua Redman to help cement a jazzy, 80s jam groove from drummer Kris Myers and keyboardist Joel Cummins. To round out the album, Umphrey’s McGee gives its audience some arena hard rock that its fans have come to love and embrace in late-night sets. Overall, it’s not us is dark and stirring, yet the sporadic bright breaks keep the listener hooked through a relatable musical representation of life.
Hear what Jake Cinninger has to say about the Track “Looks” Commentary (Here)
The wild rollercoaster ride that is listening to Umphrey’s McGee is exaggerated masterfully in it’s not us, yet may not be fully appreciated by new listeners. However, that isn’t to say that there is at least one song for everybody. Maturing into the sound the band has been building for 20 years, Umphrey’s McGee has ripened into a seasoned jam band that no longer needs to prove itself, but now must maintain staying power for the future. This album is great! Much Umph Love.
Be Sure to Catch Umphrey’s McGee on the road now
UMPHREY’S MCGEE TOUR DATES:
January 11 Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
January 12 Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
January 13 Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
January 19 New York, NY @ The Beacon Theatre
January 20 New York, NY @ The Beacon Theatre
January 21 New York, NY @ The Beacon Theatre
January 25 New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall
January 26 Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
January 27 Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
January 28 Jim Thorpe, PA @ Penn’s Peak
February 1 Columbus, OH @ Express Live!
February 2 Kalamazoo, MI @ Wings Event Center
February 3 Kalamazoo, MI @ Wings Event Center
February 15 Washington, DC @ The Anthem
February 16 Asheville, NC @ ExploreAsheville.com Arena
February 17 Asheville, NC @ ExploreAsheville.com Arena
February 18 Tampa, FL @ WhigFest Music & Arts Festival
March 7 Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen
March 8 Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen
March 9 Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen
March 10 Salt Lake City UT @ The Complex
March 14 Missoula, MT @ The Wilma
March 15 Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
March 16 Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
March 17 Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
March 22 South Lake Tahoe, CA @ Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
March 23 Oakland, CA @ The Fox Oakland
March 24 Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
March 25 San Diego, CA @ The Observatory North Park
Review by Sam Harkey