Sci Fidelty 1117

Everybody wants to jump on the Grateful Dead “jam band” wagon, but the term is losing coherence. It used to mean spontaneous freeform jazz-like explorations of melodic themes; now it’s slapped onto any meandering musical breakout of indeterminate shape. The latest case in point is Mantis. Umphrey’s McGee can astonish, particularly with chirpy harmonies drenched in instrumental atmosphere evocative of The Beatles. Check out “Made to Measure” and “Cemetery Walk.” But then there’s stuff like “1348 in which the band assumes a Black Sabbath-like metal band persona. Fair enough, but the attempt to merge the two is a force fit. One of my students found the twelve-minute title track “epic,” but to my ears it’s more like three different songs, not so much of a suite as a smashed musical plate in need of thematic glue. Mantis has fabulous moments, but there’s too much jam and not enough bready structure to contain it.

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