Umphrey's McGee, "It's Not Us" (Nothing Too Fancy Music)
In this era of hyper-specialization, there must be a satellite radio station somewhere playing only pop songs released in 1988 whose titles include four vowels and two consonants, but not "a'' or "r," and were composed in April under a waxing gibbous moon. Umphrey's McGee offers a much more varied and gratifying trip across the dial.
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." Considering that in 2014 the band recorded an album at Abbey Road's Studio Two (the Fab Four's favorite) that included a cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," it may be more than a fluke.
"It's Not Us" includes some of the best melodies Umphrey's McGee has recorded. But if it's not them, then who?