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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Jacket wears its heart on its sleeve

November 12, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

My Morning Jacket's new album "Z" sees English producer John Leckie emphasizing the more nuanced elements of the Louisville band's Neil Youngon- the- dark- side- of- the- moon sounds. It's the kind of record that can take some attentive listening to fully appreciate -- perhaps not the kind of "statement" some expected after the considerable buzz that's surrounded the band in the last couple of years.

Thursday's concert at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre made the statement. Emphatically.

The Jim James-led quintet could have filled an arena with the rock dynamics it commanded. Yet it never lost the subtle distinctions and eerie atmospheres of its recordings, an approach that stands out in the Americana landscape as much as Wilco's experimental forays.

Where Alabama's terrific Drive-By Truckers wears its southern-rock roots on its sleeve, MMJ holds it in its hearts -- which it wears on its sleeve.

The sentimentality that runs through James' high, yearning, reverb-drenched vocals (heck, through the reverb-drenched everything in this band's aesthetic) is the secret ingredient, lending a dreamy innocence to even the most thunderous, guitar-bashing, hair-flinging moments.

And this band can guitar-bash and hair-fling with the best of them, the twin-guitar attack of "One Big Holiday" out-Skynyrding Skynyrd on Thursday.

But Pink Floyd leanings in some new material were brought to the fore several times, notably on "Dondante," from the heartbeat-like rhythm to James' wordless wail to his guitar solo bearing the sharp sting of Floyd's David Gilmour. Even rainbow lighting effects alluded to the "Dark Side of the Moon" cover art.

The irony is that many people may have left humming "Off the Record," a very atypical but quite catchy reggae-pop ditty. Catching people off guard like that makes a statement too.

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