A country trip with My Morning Jacket

By Scott Kara

Coming up with last year's most challenging and psychedelic country rock album should make My Morning Jacket one to see tomorrow, writes SCOTT KARA

Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket likes to think of the band's latest album, Evil Urges, as "a six-headed monster".

Listening to it, Broemel's view is an understatement. Evil Urges is off-putting on first listen, as it moves from the plaintive Thank You Too!, which was one of the most beautiful songs of last year ("We got to bring in a string section for that one and we just sat back and didn't have to play."), to the cheesy funk of Highly Suspicious (like Cameo's Word Up done southern style), to the raucous guitar-wielding splendour of Remnants.

"It's weird and fun and I'm really happy with it," says the guitarist in his laid-back southern drawl down the phone from his home in Nashville before MMJ head to New Zealand.

The band, who sound something like psychedelic country space rock, was formed in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1998 by guitarist, singer and - fair to say - band leader Jim James, and bass player Two Tone Tommy.

Following three albums and some departures they settled on the current line-up of James, Tommy, Broemel, drummer Patrick Hallahan, and keyboardist Bo Koster in 2004.

While Evil Urges is not as potent as the band's 2005 breakthrough album Z, it's by far their most ambitious and intriguing.

"On this record, more than the last, we followed a
bunch of very diverse ideas to the finish," Broemel says.

But given its odd and varied nature, why and how does the album work?

"I don't know. I think it's down to repetition," he
laughs.

By this he not only means repeat listens from a punter's point of view but also on the band's part in playing the songs.

"We rehearsed in this great place just outside of Colorado Springs, we holed up there and just followed
our whims as far as the songs were concerned, and we got familiar with them and spent a lot of time with them. It probably seems shocking to hear it the first time but once you spend a little time with it you start to understand what we saw. It's kind of inexplicable but
by the time the record came out we were so used to it we
didn't think it was weird," he chuckles.

The band's vast influences can be summed up by a four-hour set they did last year at Tennessee's Bonnaroo Festival which included covers like Sly and the Family Stone's Hot Fun in the Summertime and Funkadelic's Hit It and Quit It, through to Velvet Underground's Oh! Sweet Nuthin and Motley Crue's Home Sweet Home. While we may not experience a
four-hour epic at the Big Day Out, it should be a memorable show because since Z was released MMJ have gained a reputation as an intense and powerful live band (captured in 2006 on live album Okonokos).

Their profile has also been upped in recent years by support slots for Bob Dylan, a prime spot at the Coachella Festival, and in Australia this month they are doing sideshows with Big Day Out headliner Neil Young (sorry, New Zealand audiences are out of luck).

"We did Saturday Night Live this year [2008] too and that was in the column of, 'That's definitely never going to happen'. And we got to play Madison Square Garden and that was definitely in the column of, 'That's never gonna
happen'," he laughs.

Who: My Morning Jacket
What: Psychedelic down-home country space rock from the south
Where & when: Big Day Out, Green stage, 5.30pm-6.30pm
Key albums: Z (2005); Okonokos (live album, 2006); Evil Urges (2008)

- NZ Herald

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