Or maybe MMJ is simply the new Phish, a band that never really resonated commercially but whose live shows are among those of legend. The quintet, which plays Revention Music Center tomorrow night, is known for its jam-band ways, often rolling one ten-minute song into another. Their catalog is among the most unique in rock over the past 15 years. It features some tracks that scream for mainstream acceptance, some that couldn’t care less and others that are, to put it mildly, bizarre as hell.
“One Big Holiday”
The best song the band ever produced, “One Big Holiday” is My Morning Jacket at its finest. James wails with a voice that could fit into any church choir, and a guitar/drum instrumental brings the song home. If it feels like the band put a little extra into this one, they did — “One Big Holiday” is about MMJ being discovered and catching its big break.
The closest MMJ ever came to any semblance of mainstream radio success, “I’m Amazed” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard's U.S. Adult Singles chart upon its release in 2008. The band even performed it on Saturday Night Live. Yes, even in 2008, SNL still made it a mission to showcase bands half its viewers had likely never heard of.
One of the most beautiful songs about stalking ever recorded, “Librarian” is an ode to an era gone by — “Ramble up the stairwell into the hall of books/ Since we got the interweb, these hardly get used.” It’s also a creepy tale of James’s obsession with “the sexiest librarian” he had ever seen, one whom the front man imagines dining and romancing.
“Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2”
Now we’re entering jam-band territory, eight-plus minutes of James and MMJ at peak form. In this tribute to love and those who inspire it, James delivers lyrics like, “I can see it/ By the way you smile/ I'm smilin' too/ I see myself in you.” James is a rarity – a musician who seems to write better songs about falling in love, rather than out of it.
“Outta My System”
Circuital, released in 2011, was billed as a return to experimental form for My Morning Jacket. In reality, it was kind of a dud of a studio record. That said, it did give us “Outta My System,” among the weirder, more charming songs the band ever put out. The lyrics are straightforward and not particularly deep – “They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen/ Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison” – but the track shines as a testament to lost youth and a penchant for troublemaking tactics, even at an older age.
From the band’s most recent album, Waterfall, this track is trademark MMJ. It balances religious undertones — a staple of James’s songwriting — when it classifies God and the Devil as “made up.” It also encourages listeners to live life to the fullest and enjoy the moment, via lyrics like, “Get as much as you can keep around/ Before they put you into the ground.”