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 Scott Creney

My Morning Jacket – Circuital (ATO)

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by Scott Creney

Did My Morning Jacket change, or did I change?

We met in 2003. I had just finished college.  Ready to get the hell out of Boston and return to the southwest, I moved with my friend — the improbably named Matthew Moon — to Prescott, Arizona to start working on my first novel. Matt and I had passed through Prescott, a small town in the Arizona mountains, a couple of times on poetry tours, and we really liked the place. Once there, I got a job at a local high school teaching kids with learning and behavioral disabilities. Most of them were a lot like this guy.

Thankfully, I was much better at it than the teachers in this video. After a month, I added the job of bus driver (it was actually a large van) to my duties. I drove the Chino Valley route, about 10 miles each way. These kids have gone to the trouble of filming an excellent introduction to CV.

One day one of my Chino students gave me a drawing his friend had made of the town. It featured that same McDonald’s, a man fucking a goat behind the grocery store, lots of spiders, and a self-portrait of the kid sitting in a cardboard box in the middle of a field and crying.

My personal life at the time was nearly as dramatic. This girl back in Boston had flown out to visit me for a week and we both fell into a love that was complicated, exciting, and ultimately impossible. Within a couple of months, however, she would insist we ‘take a break’. Later, it turned out she had started dating the singer from Idlewild. A month after the ‘take a break’ call, she would be calling me from Roddy Woomble’s cabin in the remote Scottish highlands, reminding me that one day she and I would be together, that she was just ‘trying to figure some things out’. The situation felt, at the time, like a horrific emotional nightmare of the soul.

Matt Moon and I had to drive nearly two hours into Phoenix if we wanted to buy any non-chainstore music (the downside of which was seeing Roddy Woomble’s face in the magazines I picked up). And one of the albums I picked up on our monthly trip to Phoenix, because I’d read some good reviews — though not in Pitchfork, which gave it a 7.1 — and because it was used, was At Dawn by My Morning Jacket.

Let’s cut the bullshit. There is no such thing as an impartial music review. Your response to someone’s music is always rooted in the personal. Whether it’s the music you’ve heard leading up to it, or your particular emotional needs at the time, it is impossible to listen to music objectively. Just like it’s impossible to fall in love objectively, or to divorce someone objectively. This is music. It’s personal. It’s pheromones, not Trivial Pursuit.

So for whatever subjective reasons — the high desert of Prescott, my own personal heartbreak, driving those early mornings to Chino Valley and back, the fact that hundreds of bands with a similar sound hadn’t come along yet — I fell in love with My Morning Jacket. That September, Matt Moon and I decided to move across the country to Asheville, a town in the North Carolina mountains. A bunch of writer friends from college were moving there, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Our first night there, the entire group took mushrooms together as some sort of initiation/psychic bonding experience. That didn’t really happen, but I do remember lying underneath a pool table listening to MMJ’s new album It Still Moves, which someone had picked up on my recommendation. I have to admit it sounded really good under the circumstances, but less so, the following morning.

One of our group was, like My Morning Jacket, from Louisville, Kentucky. So we decided to go on a road trip to catch the record release show. This was my first time seeing MMJ live, and it was everything I could have hoped for. Even better, earlier that night I had been able to convince the waitress that we — my friends and I — actually were in My Morning Jacket. And on the way home that night, we passed the six hour drive trying to decide what was the worst song of all time. When ‘The Living Years’ by Mike And The Mechanics came on the radio, it narrowly brushed aside The Beach Boys and ‘Kokomo’.

As my year in Asheville progressed, my friends and I gradually drifted apart. When MMJ came to town the following spring, a few of us went and saw them at a sold-out show in Asheville. The Orange Peel held around 600 people or so, but it just wasn’t the same. A month later, The Fall came to town. None of my friends wanted to go with me, and there were only 25 people there. My friends had been saving their money to go see Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. That show would end up selling out.

Clearly, it was time for me to be leaving Asheville.

(continues overleaf)

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12 Responses to My Morning Jacket – Circuital (ATO)

  1. Everett True June 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Damn, Scott. Damn.

  2. Conan Neutron June 6, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Very nice! To Me MMJ have always just been kind of… there… wallpaper given sound, but this is a great review that really puts it all in perspective. Well done man.

  3. ancillary June 7, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I’m not sure what irritates me more about this review – how you talked incessantly about your own life (who cares?). How you got it wrong about the children’s choir on “Holdin’ On To Black Metal.” Or how it feels like you only listened to the record once.

    “MMJ isn’t too big on music videos, which is kind of interesting in one sense, but also not really interesting at all.” That sums up this review. Kind of interesting in one sense, but also not really interesting at all, with the exception that you have no cool album cover to share.

  4. yr412 June 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    it’s quite difficult to respond to what is possibly the most incoherent piece of writing i have read in the last few years. that said, if mmj is your ex…it’s not her, it’s you.

    i understand that you want to be taken seriously as you consider yourself a very serious writer but i think it might do your craft some good if you were to rely less on regurgitating what other critics have written in the past, as many of them were incorrect themselves. moreover, i’m not sure it behooves you to speak about albums you yourself have admitted to listening to once or twice on the internet. to speak about music on any sort of meaningful level, you have to really live with it. not give it the once over so you can participate in super cool conversations with the other creatives in your alt coffee shops. that won’t do.

    it seems clear to me that you listened to Circuital once. and maybe not even the whole way through. you dedicated maybe 2 lines tops to the actual music on the album. so the next time you want to write about all the very important feelings you feel, don’t label it as serious criticism. put it in your diary and leave the music out of it.

  5. Everett True June 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Don’t take this the wrong way yr412 and Ancillary … but you’re My Morning Jacket fans, aren’t you? It’s OK. You can admit it. We don’t mind. We welcome all sorts here.

  6. ancillary June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    True, I am a My Morning Jacket fan. I am also a fan of good writing, which this is not.

  7. yr412 June 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    i’m pretty sure my appreciation for my morning jacket does not work in inverse proportion for my disdain of lazy journalism. and yes, it’s entirely patronizing to suggest that it does.

    the bottom line is that this “review” has nothing to do with music at all.

  8. Everett True June 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    True, I am a My Morning Jacket fan.

    Good on you for admitting it in public! See, folk? There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  9. ancillary June 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Prolonging this pissing contest would perhaps be semi-amusing/worthwhile if you were even half as clever as you think you are, but alas… was good fun while it lasted, though.

  10. Scott Creney June 8, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Sorry yr412 and ancillary (can I call you, ancil? is that cool? i feel like we’re buds). Here’s a link to 30 reviews that are more in line with what you’re looking for.

    http://www.metacritic.com/music/circuital/critic-reviews

    Each one will tell you what MMJ’s new album sounds like. Which seems to be necessary since you’re incapable of using the internet to go listen and decide for yourself.

  11. yr412 June 8, 2011 at 12:41 am

    are you suggesting that i think there are no reviews of Circuital on the internet? or that i have not become acquainted with the music on the album?

    i’m not certain if you are missing the gist on purpose to prove something or if you are truly not comprehending my initial point which is that i think this is a lazy, lollygagging piece which has everything to do with your nostalgia for your post-collegiate days with your cool artist friends and nothing to do with mmj and their new album.

    this isn’t music criticism. if you would stop praying at the church of everett true and his misguided understanding of what music journalism is, you might see that this “review” is nothing more than a 14 year old’s tumblr rant.

    stick to pulling espresso and leave the thoughtful and informed writing to the big boys.

  12. Scott Creney June 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I was just suggesting that this may not be the best place for you to come in search of ‘music journalism’. And perhaps you might be happier somewhere else, since CB is obviously not fulfilling your ‘music journalism’ needs and this review seems to be bringing out your angry & hostile side.

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