Hairy Americans look to the future. We like what they see
The whispers surrounding this, My Morning Jacket’s second major-label record, were perplexing. Kentucky’s hairiest, rootin’-tootin’ country dudes have gone a bit electro, you say?
The reality is, thankfully, nowhere near as ridiculous as that sounds: ‘Z’ is definitely not death-sex-gabba-techno. What it is, however, is the point where MMJ push their impassioned country-soul to its very sonic and emotional parameters. Driven by bassy synths, ‘Wordless Chorus’ (so called because the chorus is an explosion of hymnal passion) is an amazing statement of intent, with singer Jim James wondering, “What has not been done?/I’ll rush out and do it”. ‘Gideon’, meanwhile, finds shimmering guitars and haunting synths complimenting James’ trademark canyon-wide reverb-drenched vocals to such near-perfection that one wonders why the band have never attempted to marry them in such a fashion before. The album’s middle tracks tread more familiar territory – ‘What A Wonderful Man’ is a piano-driven southern-fried rock-out – before closing track ‘Dondante’ scales the space-rock peaks and blows everything away before it.
By balancing progression with consolidation, technology with tradition, MMJ have created a work of stunningly expansive ambition. ‘Z’ is nothing less than a masterpiece.