Most bands featured frequently on David Dye’s World Cafe rarely fail to delight the “musically curious” side of myself; My Morning Jacket is no exception. But the band’s third release, It Still Moves, while honest and “curious,” proves instead that MMJ, a young five piece from Louisville, still has a lot of learning to do.
You’d think this quintet of like-minded friends would have a similar like-minded vision for the band. Not quite. While technically proficient, there’s really nothing to make this record one for the ages; no one rips it up to stand-out status. They jam, they harmonize, they jam some more. But the spirit of enterprise needed to pull it together is lost in a tidal wave of jam riffs and forgettable lyrics, like on “Run Thru”: “Oh shit run!/Oh shit run!/Oh shit run!”
And not that the sound quality hasn’t improved since their 1999 debut, The Tennessee Fire. It has. The previously self-produced band has consistently grown through a dedication to “homegrown” recording. But there’s still enough reverb here to fill a Roman cathedral, and it doesn’t disguise the fact that this album carries a total of two “pretty good” tracks, opener “Mahgeetah” and “Golden.” The bodies of the remaining ten songs are weighed down by semi-epic-length jam sessions interlaced with decidedly experimental time changes. In this way, MMJ pretty much is the “ethereal Southern jam rock” scene. But after a while you’ll begin to pine for something a bit more solid than a ten-minute song toting, seventy-two-minute playing length record with echo effects and subtle guitar solos. A friend put it this way: “No one really does anything.”
Lead vocalist Jim James does lend a certain depth (think Kermit meets Neil Young) to the record, and perhaps his leadership will someday guide his band out of the shadows of monster jam land. Any outfit with a couple guitars and an ear for music can jam the night (and recording time) away, and perhaps that’s why this album is somewhat of a disappointment. With some fine tuning, MMJ will mostly likely crank out something really tight. Right now, it doesn’t look as though they have any ambition to see past the fog from the smoke machine.