Wednesday, February 22, 2017

McQ's #74 Album Of 2015 - MULTI-LOVE - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A breakout hit for quirky, lo-fi bedroom psych-rocker Ruben Neilson, a.k.a Unkown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love finds the Portland-based artist drifting away from the mellow acoustic leanings of previous effort Unknown Mortal Orchestra II, and toward the pop-soul stylings of past D.I.Y. R&B/funk legends like Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Sly & The Family Stone.

It's an interesting stylistic shift, albeit a not always successful one given Neilson's limited voice and proclivity for sudden musical detours (generally an asset in exploratory psychedelic music but a no-no in R&B where staying on groove is usually much more important), but the change to a more soulful direction allows Neilson to dive into deeper emotional territory here than he has in the past, and he takes good advantage, delivering his most urgently heartfelt lyrics to date - all while retaining a good sense of fun

On the plus side, this record sports a couple of very strong songs in the title track and my personal favorite, the simple, direct Necessary Evil, which features an awesome horn-line from Neilson's father that feels ripped straight off of Sly & The Family Stone's gritty soul masterwork There's A Riot Goin' On. I also like Like Acid Rain, probably the album's best uptempo number, and Neilson's strategy to overcome the limitations in his voice by evoking a goofy Gonjasufi vibe on a couple of the records more experimental tracks, especially Extreme Wealth & Casual Cruelty.

On the downside, a number of the songs on this album, really almost half, fall flat, including for me the album's big hit Can't Keep Checking My Phone.

Those quirky turns knocking heads with R&B's more straightforward demands are part of the problem, but having seen how good UMO are live, I also feel that Neilson, very much like Prince, is a gifted live performer way too quick to sublimate his genuinely virtuosic guitar talents in the  "supposed service" of song on record. A little less holding back and a bit more soloing punch as one regularly gets when the band performs live might have gone a long way towards taking Multi-Love up another level.

Still, there's definitely enough good stuff here to warrant a few listens, and whatever your response to this album, don't let it dissuade you from checking UMO out live, they are one of the best on-stage indie acts playing the circuit today.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Multi-Love, Like Acid Rain, Extreme Wealth And Casual Cruelty, Necessary Evil

Track Listing:
1. Multi-Love - 8
2. Like Acid Rain - 7 
3. Ur Life One Night - 6
4. Can't Keep Checking My Phone - 6 
5. Extreme Wealth And Casual Cruelty - 7 
6. The World Is Crowded - 7 
7. Stage Or Screen - 6 
8. Necessary Evil - 8 
9. Puzzles - 6 
Intangibles - Average to slightly low

Here's are the official videos for the album's two best tracks Multi-Love and Necessary Evil and imho, it's most overrated track - breakthrough hit Can't Keep Checking My Phone.

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