Review : Umphrey's McGee - Mantis
Bullz-eyeThe Chicago jam-rock phenoms take a new tack on Mantis, delivering a platter full of brand-new songs yet to be road-tested. It’s usually the other way around for jam bands, which might explain why most such albums fail to match concert sales. But Mantis offers a collection of relatively concise tunes – excepting the 12-minute title track – that give the album a classic ‘70s vibe with a modern rock flair.
Opener "Made to Measure" comes out strong, with a Beatlesque vibe giving way to some jazzier flavor to set up the epic title track, a prog-rock masterpiece that blends guitar virtuosity with the classic influences of Led Zeppelin, Rush, Deep Purple, and others.
"We believe there’s something here worth dying for," the band declares. It clearly applies to the music and it gets at why hard-touring jam bands inspire such devoted core followings, the type that can earn a band a living, even if they never cross over to mainstream appeal. The "Mantis" breakdown uses a Metallica-ish transition to delve into a majestic Floyd-ian bridge for ultimate psychedelia, which then builds back up with progressive guitars into a grand climax....full text
PopmattersIt happens to everyone at least once in their life. It’s hands-down one of the worst experiences a person can go through, and it almost makes you question your faith in humanity. That’s right: it’s that rare moment in time when your favorite band releases a terrible album.
Sadly, that time has now come for me and Umphrey’s McGee.
Mantis shows these Chicago-based jam-jockeys moving from song-oriented compositions to full-blown prog-rock territory, and though this step seems logical on paper, the execution is completely marred. Back in 2002, the band dipped their toes into the mainstream with the decently distributed and indifferently received Local Band Does OK, a good but not especially noteworthy post-Phish jam-rock album that showed a sprawling ambition which was lacking only in focus and pacing. After unleashing several albums on the fledgling Sci-Fidelity label—each disc improving upon the last—the band reached a creative peak with 2007’s The Bottom Half, an “odds and sods” disc of material culled from the recording sessions for 2006’s Safety in Numbers that somehow managed to outstrip its parent disc in terms of sheer quality. Though Umphrey’s had become famous for their onstage jam sessions (or “Jimmy Stewarts” as they’re known amongst the hardcore), their creative energy transferred to the studio with remarkable ease. The bonus disc on The Bottom Half showed the guys at one point doing a straight-up disco version of the song “Red Room” at the drop of a hat, totally spontaneously and completely in unison with each other. A stopgap live release only confirmed what everyone had already known: Umphrey’s McGee were arguably the best jam band to be working today....full text
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