Umphrey's McGee is an American band now in their 20th year and It's Not Us is their 11th studio album, released in January: since then, they have released their 12th, It's You, so watch this space to find about more about that.
Theirs is a very distinctive sound which more pastoral purists will question whether it really is prog. They draw a range of influences, the most noticeable being jazz and funk with lots of classic rock added in varying degrees.
That rock influence is evidenced throughout opener The Silent Type which is a no-nonsense powerful track, which begs the question, what comes next? The answer is Looks into which they get a distinctive funky groove going, Ryan Stasik standing out on bass and Joel Cummins on keyboards, while echoey voices keep it interesting and slightly prog.
Whistle Kids does what it says, the whistling introduction quite unusual before it gets into another funky groove. There's a laid-back feel to Half Delayed which introduces lovely vocal harmonies before it gravitates to a much heavier dimension with a killer guitar section.
It's when they launch into Maybe Someday that they sound more prog-focussed, the striking vocal harmonies and complex, denser arrangement providing some interesting moments, rounding off with a searing guitar solo rising high above piano and drum.
Remind Me starts off with a calypso-type rhythm which gradually becomes increasingly disjointed, its fast and furious pace getting swallowed up in a cacophony of sound - or as the band describes it on their website “the metallic shredfest outro” which sums it up beautifully.
After that assault on the senses, the gentler acoustic and piano-led You & You Alone is a welcome breather, though the lead voice does not give much away emotionally. Forks features dual lead voices but Speak Up revisits funky territory and sounds at times like the theme tune for an American cop series. Piranhas features a driving rhythm and heavier guitars while Dark Brush lives up to its name, a darker feel permeating some nice, deft instrumental sections.
The six band members form a tight and together unit, their enjoyment of working together coming over loud and clear. The sequencing of the tracks ensures the whole album is well balanced. It's pleasant and quirky but does not have the wow factor to make me want to play it again. But I would be intrigued to hear the one that follows on from this.
*** Alison Reijman
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