Confirmed: Jacket Fanatic
Photo by Angela Prazza from mymorningjacket.com
Back in the day (as in 1988), I resented it when people called me a Deadhead. While I still enjoy the music that the Dead made and have an honest respect for the nomads who lived on the road with them, my musical tastes and social demeanor never could fit the jammed-out pigeon hole.
Those who dubbed me a “peace punk” were perhaps closer to the mark, but really, there's no musicological page in the vast backpack of rock fandom on which to scribble my story. Rather, I'll fill notebooks until the day I die with sonic testimonials and still feel restless and unsatisfied with any singular label. One tag is too limiting, but multiple, meandering, effusive lists of combinations and revelations, well, that's another thing entirely. Which brings us to the Jacket, My Morning Jacket—the Kentucky-based, ass-kicking, reverb-breathing answer to my rock-and-roll prayers.
Jim James, Patrick Hallahan, Two-Tone Tommy, Carl Broemel, and Bo Koster—this quintessential quintet consistently justify the bushel of adjectives and elusive epiphanies that critics regularly harvest off an imaginary Kentucky farm to describe them. “Spontaneous, spacey, soulful” says August Brown in the Los Angeles Times.
Writing in the rival LA Weekly, and previewing a recent southern California show, Scott T. Sterling nails it like a Carl Broemel guitar riff: “What’s the story, morning glory? Jam bands not only got cool while you weren’t paying attention, they got good — really good, in the case of Louisville sluggers My Morning Jacket. The truest missing link between Coachella and Bonnaroo, MMJ pile on the reverb for headphone fiends but never lose sight of the song, no matter how far afield their telepathically tight improvisation takes them. It’s no surprise that their last album, Okonokos, was a live one, bordering on the epic majesty they’re known for creating in the flesh. If Phish were the Grateful Dead, Part 2, MMJ are the actual evolution, Jerry’s revenge in the form of an outfit wise enough to take sonic mind expansion and genuine musicianship to that hallowed next level. These fellas are an honest band for scarily dishonest times. Reality — what a concept.”
So, while I was much too young to really claim the Dead as my own—although I was privileged to see them twice with Jerry in 1987 and 1988—and frankly, I never could get behind the post-Dead delirium that coalesced around Phish and Widespread Panic. But my Kentucky neighbors and the veritable Bonnaroo house band combine a fierce, falsetto-driven, melodic edginess that belongs to popular alt-rock with a brain-bending blitzkrieg of banger blessings that only the heads with headphones understand. And you can dance to it.
When the breakthrough album Z pierced me to the core, the upbeat whiteboy funkiness of “Off the Record” struck my soul as inspired by the dervish-spinning nature of devotees always on tour. This Dead-meets-disco spirit comes fully realized on the recent New Year's Eve tapes—originally broadcast on the radio and available for download from archive-dot-org—where covers of Kool and the Gang's “Celebration” and Lionel Richie's “All Night Long” ushered in 2007.
This week, when the post-holiday, winter blues should have me buried, I'm instead anticipating two Jacket shows in Denver like Christmas morning. To be continued.