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 Scott Creney

My Morning Jacket – Circuital (ATO)

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As the years passed, I still kept an eye on My Morning Jacket. Like you would keep an eye on an ex-girlfriend, kind of seeing what they’re up to, feeling a twinge of nostalgia now and again. When I’d get scheduled to work with a hippie at the coffee shop, I’d pull out my old copy of At Dawn and we’d usually find a little bit of common ground to get us through the shift. Each time a new album came out, I’d give a little listen on the internet, and I’d always come away disappointed. MMJ continued to take their spacey rural sadness into other, more refined places. Not that I blamed them.

With each new album, critics have fallen over themselves to proclaim My Morning Jacket “The American Radiohead”, which is accurate in the sense that it’s been well over a decade since either band made an album I could tolerate. Now comes their latest album, Circuital. It’s being marketed as a ‘return to their roots’. Even the title suggests a sort of reconnection. Maybe it’s time for MMJ and I to patch things up. Or at least get together for a cup of coffee.

We met in the early afternoon. MMJ looked good for their age. I mentioned that when I’d first seen them back in 2003, I joked to a friend, ‘What’s the deal with their beards?’ Little did I know that within a few years, beards would be pretty much standard indie-rock fashion. We laughed. Things were going well. Caught up in a flood of memories, warm nostalgia from my misremembering brain, I tried to find ways to like the new album.

But instead I just sat there floundering. The rumors that the band had made an album ‘like the old days’, turned out to be empty hype. I guess you can make the case that Circuital is slightly less over-produced than Evil Urges or Z, but we’re still a long way from the grain silo they used to record in. A few of the songs are decent, the Ramones-on-ketamine ‘Outta My System’ is a good place to start if you’re interested. MMJ isn’t too big on music videos, which is kind of interesting in one sense, but also not really interesting at all. So you can just look at the cool album cover.

It isn’t putrid (except for a few moments — ‘Holding On To Black Metal,’ with its children’s chorus, I’m looking at you right now). But there isn’t any sense of urgency I can feel. If At Dawn sounded like — or more specifically to me, felt like — it was written in blood, Circuital feels like it was written in runny gray watercolors. Rather than stemming from some need, the album feels more like an obligation fulfilled, a mandatory greeting card sent on your birthday.

People change, they evolve. And so do bands. It would be unfair to expect them to stay the same forever. As Kylie Minogue once said, “The only constant in life is change”. It’s hard enough to connect once in this lifetime — with a band, with a partner, with a friend. It’s even harder to maintain that connection over a period of years. Eight years ago I needed what My Morning Jacket had to offer, needed it desperately. Now I’m a little less needy and they’re a little more distant. When MMJ got up to leave, I sat at the table for a while, not wanting to awkwardly bump into them out on the sidewalk. I was glad to see they were doing well, but I was a great deal happier to know I wouldn’t be seeing them again.

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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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