Older women and more will enjoy new Umphrey's McGee album
By GEOFFREY RAHIE
Some people are just meant for each other.
Joe Montana was called to throw long touchdown passes to Jerry Rice; John Belushi and Dan Akroyd worked on a "mission from God;" and on "Songs for Older Women," the members of Umphrey's McGee show why they were meant to make music together.
The 72-minute-long live recording contains eight tracks showing the band at its best. Much like an Umphrey's show, the effort is filled with complex song structures, pulsating grooves and intense jamming. But no matter how long each song is stretched out, the band — Brendan Bayliss, Ryan Stasik, Andy Farag, Joel Cummins and Michael Mirro — always seems to make each note fresh and exciting.
The album kicks off with a funky track called "Hangover." The opening guitar figure is perfectly complemented by piano and keyboards. The groove is so solid that it could be played over and over and no one would care. However, time signatures change, and the band takes it up a notch leaving the listener in a delightful whirlwind of sound.
The rest of the music on "Songs" is pure enjoyment. "Muff II: The Revenge" features Bayliss and Cummins trading guitar and keys solos while Stasik, Farag and Mirro keep a bluegrass rhythm. "The Other Side of Things" makes the listener feel as if he was at a carnival with the grinding nature of Cummins' electric organ.
The keyboards on the album are never overbearing and always fit perfectly with the particular song. Bayliss' guitar work on "2X2," as on the rest of the album, is authoritative and beautiful at once. The electric guitar can best be described as someone pouring a liquid from one cup to another — melodies flow freely from one line to the next, never feeling redundant.
The rhythm section, able to switch between hard-thumping grooves such as "Front Porch" and the laid-back lounge of "Thin Air," is so solid on the entire effort. Bassist Stasik can jump in and out of solos, providing even more color and texture to the performance, or simply lay down the bass line. Mirro's drum set and Farag's percussion duel throughout the CD making sure the songs are always complete.
The trademark of Umphrey's McGee without a doubt is the highly intensive jamming found at every live show, and it shows up on the disc. Fans will not be disappointed by the long departures that stretch every song. However, no matter how long the jam takes the boys make sure the music is never boring. The band takes the listener on a journey with every new song, complete with loud, soft, fast and slow sections. Although the respective members get their chance to shine on various solos, the best moments on the album come when all five members unite to produce one big, fat mesh of sound.
One aspect that should not be overlooked is the singing found throughout "Songs." Although it might be easy with all of the instrumental mayhem to look past the vocals, Bayliss and Co. do a fine job on every track. Bayliss' voice is reminiscent of the lead singer of Silverchair, except Bayliss' vocals are more controlled and dependable. The rest of the band contributes as well, backing up Bayliss whenever appropriatte.
However, the way these five guys found each other is pretty irrelevant. The most important thing is that they did find each other and they are making fantastic music together now. "Songs for Older Women" showcases a band working hard to make thoughtful and exciting music. They have succeeded.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE SHAMROCKS
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, September 14, 1999