UMPHREY'S McGEE - Anchor Drops

Umphrey's McGee - Anchor Drops

14 songs
64:35 minutes
***** ****
InsideOut

Bandpage

InsideOut always gives me the preconception of progressive heavy metal music, so I had to listen twice to understand that Umphrey's McGee don't fit into that mould. The label info sheet claims that Umphrey's McGee are close on the heels of Phish, the undisputed kings of the American jam rock circuit. My apologies if that expression is not used correctly, but unfortunately that's a genre as yet totally unknown in Europe. This combination of different styles (rock, blues, prog, funk,...) with the freedom or even duty to improvise in long jam sessions most of the time comes with the band in question encouraging people to make recordings of their concerts, which you then can either download (legally, of course) for free at a site like www.archive.org (who have more than 500 shows you can get there), or you can pay about 10$ at the band's website... which is still a lot cheaper than what Einstürzende Neubauten asked for their copy-protected live-CDs on location.

So what we get here is a live band taking some time off to record a couple of studio songs that are generally compact, lacking maybe the freedom of a live show, but still leaving room for some instrumental tracks that are among the best songs on the album. Anchor Drops starts with Plunger, a song that should find many friends in Europe, as there are some parallels to Spock's Beard, with nicely convoluted rhythms and beautiful harmonic vocals. The short Uncommon has a more laid back attitude, with weird lyrics sounding as if Green Day or Sum 41 decided on writing a ballad. 13 Days is sandwiched between two instrumentals called JaJunk Parts 1 and 2, where the former starts like detuned Seventies hardrock, and the latter has an amazingly fast keyboard part. Miss Tinkle's Overture is another instrumental highlight, situated more at the end of the album, and proving again that these guys never use vocal-less songs as a gimmick, their instrumentals have great compositional genius. In The Kitchen shows a funkier side of the band, although when they rock (never really hard, and certainly never metal), they remind me a lot of American prog underdogs Echolyn, although Umphrey's McGee's music has more coolness to it.

At the end, they are losing steam a bit. The country ballad Bullhead City is rather lame, the electronic instrumental Robot World doesn't fit into the general concept, and the closing acoustic guitar instrumental The Pequod sounds like stoned Led Zeppelin on their third album. If you snip away those three weaker tracks, you still have more than 50 minutes of truly amazing prog funk rock (or whatever you want to call it). Buy this album, download some of their concerts and hope that one of these days we Europeans will also get crazy bands like this that have no problem playing three hour sets and putting them on the Internet for free download. Their music may be rooted in the Seventies, but their concept is the future.

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