Record Reviews

Umphrey’s McGee

Album: “It’s Not Us”

Grade: A

Incorporating funk metal, electronic rock, light blues, some jazz, an acoustic ballad, plain old rock and more, “It’s Not Us” has it all within the confines of 11 songs and 53 minutes while retaining the jam band’s prog rock origins.

With a synth bass and its hard dance rhythm, opener “The Silent Type” is not at all hushed nor your typical Umphrey’s McGee track, which does not prevent it from being a highlight. “Looks” sounds vaguely like Faith No More while even a minor dude will tell you that on “Whistle Kids” the band follows Lauren Bacall’s instructions to a tee – they put their lips together and blow.

“Half Delayed” arrives fully formed, a calming, Alan Parsons-like power ballad up until the crushing guitar solo, while Joshua Redman adds his sax to “Speak Up,” which also includes some gorgeous vocal harmonies.

The screaming, pounding guitars on the extended outro of “Remind Me” contrast with the gentleness and romanticism of the next track, “You & You Alone,” just like “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” brushes up against “Here Comes The Sun” on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.”

“It’s Not Us” includes some of the best melodies Umphrey’s McGee has recorded. But if it’s not them, then who?

–Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

Moon Taxi

Album: “Let the Record Play”

Grade: D

The Nashville-based quintet Moon Taxi has been steadily gaining a wider following over the past decade, and we’re happy for them. But the cost, it now becomes clear, has been too high.

“Let the Record Play,” the band’s 10-track fifth album, will be hard to take for some fans as Moon Taxi becomes progressively blander with each passing year.

Their sound has flattened out, with lyrics that have grown mushy and lack bite. Their transformation into a lite version of Kings of Leon is almost complete.

The issue isn’t their musicianship, which remains tight, intricate and top-notch. Nor does it have to do with Moon Taxi’s blend of indie-prog rock, led by Trevor Terndrup’s special voice. It’s just that “Let the Record Play” would be a triumph for any other band. For Moon Taxi it’s just treading water.

Any urgency, any sense of experimentation is mostly gone. This may be what happens when you combine a big record deal – the band is newly signed to RCA – with the payday that comes when Moon Taxi songs get used in commercials from BMW to McDonald’s. “Hey, hey, hey/Now we’re looking good/Now we’re looking good as gold,” go the taunting lyrics in one new song.

–Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

They Might Be Giants

Album: “I Like Fun”

Grade: B

They Might Be Giants have a spring in their step on “I Like Fun,” their 20th studio album. As is often the case, their gait is of the kind endorsed by Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, with a special dispensation here from the Dead Poets Society.

Yes, death becomes TMBG, and there’s a funereal bouquet of approaches to inevitable expiry among the 15 tracks, including “Mrs. Bluebeard,” “I Left My Body” and the dark-until-it’s-goofy “Last Wave.”

“Let’s Get This Over With” relies on a foundation of piano and drums and is one their catchiest songs in a career densely populated with them. It makes for a fantastic opener and one of its maxims is that “Even when you’re out of work/you still have a job to do.”

“By the Time You Get This” is an all-too-optimistic prediction of the future – no barking dogs, hatred or lies – made in 937, “the dark and troubled past.” Not exactly Nostradamus, but consider that the Frenchman had a 600-year advantage.

–Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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