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My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves (ATO/RCA/BMG)

A lemming pack of critics has been clambering over one another to praise this Kentucky neo-country/Southern rock quintet. Major music mags here and in the UK have touted My Morning Jacket as America's best band, serving up festering heaps of hyperbole to exalt this album. Yet if one actually listens to the CD, the praise becomes a mind-boggling head-scratcher indeed.

Frankly, It Still Moves barely does that; slip it into the CD changer, and it just lies there like a disc of soggy cardboard. It's a static album so lacking in creativity, passion or even a hint of finesse that one wonders if the Big Critical Tout of this band is the work of some evil genius of a social psychology grad student who's experimenting with the pack mentality of so-called music critics. The fact is, criticizing this stunningly mediocre slab of stale, reheated beans is as easy as shooting dead and plucked ducks cooking on a spit.

This album is so devoid of the merit that it's supposed to brim with that one hardly knows where to begin. We could start with Spin's comparison of it to a play by Tennessee Williams. Okay, the album's first lyric lines read, "Sittin' here with me and mine, all wrapped up in a bottle of wine. Little we can do -- we gon' see it through somehow. So -- now are you ready to go? My lady." Tennessee Williams? Yeah, right. Robin Williams saying "nanu nanu" maybe, or Tennessee Ernie Ford after a fifth of Black Jack perhaps.

Often-off-key lead singer Jim James warbles and whines tripe like that drowned in echo that's supposed to be an effect but comes across as merely affected. The studio trickery does serve a useful purpose, though: It helps conceal the fact that James can't much sing. For its part, the rest of the band generally clatters along atop hackneyed melodies. The guitars string out simplistic clichés as tired as an insomniac with a bellyful of Nyquil.

Those who compare My Morning Jacket to the Allman Brothers probably can't tell the difference between Duane Allman and Dickey Betts (or perhaps have never even heard of either of them). Same goes for anyone who cites Neil Young as a comparison. Just because James has a high voice and the album sounds like a 25th-generation photocopy of Harvest does not a genius make. For that matter, it doesn't make even tolerable listening -- I'd rather spin a Rod McKuen poetry album on a loop than suffer through such fourth-rate shite ever again.

It Still Moves is bereft of even one original or inspired idea, lyric line or melody. Even the old ideas the band swipes end up sounding utterly fossilized. To be fair, some of the album doesn't totally suck. Occasionally, the irritating rattle coalesces into something pretty, and the intermittent soul horns make for neat if overdone accents. But the critics have scurried over the cliff of credibility into the abyss of pseudo-hipster idiocy with this one. And if you don't heed this warning, and you buy the hype and actually purchase It Still Moves, I'll bet you that in just a few short years you'll be wondering what the hell possessed you.

 
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