Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

UMPHREY'S MCGEE

The Bottom Half

2007-03-13

For the uninitiated, this little rock outfit from Chicago have positioned themselves at the forefront of the neo-jam movement through relentless touring and diverse tastes. As with their previous records, this disc floats in between genres mixing the melodies and solos of the classic hippie jam bands with driving rave beats and spiffy studio production but somehow still managing to keep the feel authentic. This record clearly shows a band on the rise, growing into their songwriting, and goes far beyond what peers like Particle or Moe have offered recently. From rootsy folk twang of “Great American” to the jazz fusion orgy of “Higgins” to the full blown 80’s power dance pop of “Bright Lights Big Cities” and the experimental epic “Divisions” Umphrey’s shows that they have much more in common Zappa and Stanley Jordan than with the Grateful Dead. It has taken me awhile to warm up to this band, I was skeptical for quite some time even after seeing them live a few times. But The Bottom Half has won me over at last! The second disc in the set is mostly demo’s, outtakes and alternate takes of tunes from this album and it’s predecessor Safety In Numbers, the sort of stuff that will delight hardcore fans and probably just annoy the rest. Be sure to preview front and back of all tracks on the second disc, many contain snippets of the band talking to each other before or after a song, and two (7 and 9) contain naughty words. Overall, this is a quality effort from a group obviously focused on exploring and determined to not be corralled into one kind of sound. And yes, delivering some kick-ass jams along the way. –Calin

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