My Morning Jacket – review

Roundhouse, London

Only four songs in and the PA cut out, the sirens blared and the Roundhouse was evacuated. Had Kentucky's My Morning Jacket tripped the inhouse prog alarm, or had the venue overloaded trying to work out what sort of band they are? Elegiac alt-country? Stoner Zep rock? Electro folk? The goth Eagles? An evil Flaming Lips fronted by a yeti dressed as Darth Vader?

After 45 minutes in a drizzly car park and an all-clear from the fire services, we filed back inside for the rest of a 120-minute set (a snip; they played four hours at Bonnaroo 2008) that proved them to be all these bands and more.

On MMJ's emergence in 1999 the honeyed voice of hirsute frontman Jim James – a Cousin Itt-alike who spent lengthy periods on stage singing through his hair with an LED-festooned Vader box on his chest and a black cape over his head – was a throwback to early Mercury Rev and the blueprint for cuddly fuzz-folkers Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. But more recent albums Z, Evil Urges and Circuital have toyed with dub, disco and experimental synths, so the modern MMJ are an unpredictable evolution of psychedelic Americana whose wildly winding journey you would be best to blindly follow.

The track Off the Record morphed into a Floyd blues wig-out; Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2 resembled an electro remix of the Terminator theme, while The Day Is Coming could only be described as "monk funk". Such eclecticism encourages self-indulgence – every song built to an elemental psych-country crescendo and the doomy acid sprawl of Dondante hit the 20-minute mark even before the sax solo started. But My Morning Jacket boast the melodic ballast to anchor them from a drift too far into pretension, even when the encore found them indulging in fantastic AC/DC rock theatrics with a backing choir of pagan princesses with James doing his corniest Phantom cape-flaps. Some alarms; more surprises.

Contributor

Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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