Review: Umphrey’s McGee, ‘It’s Not Us’

Umphrey’s McGee have been setting a new standard for progressive, intricate and technical jam music with a heavy side for 20 years now. Their inventive approach to songwriting has to led a prolific output of material, with fans always clamoring for more. Their latest release, it’s not us, shows the band at the top of their game; clearly 20 years hasn’t slowed their creative spirit.

As usual with jam band albums, the track listing is a mixture of newer material and a few songs that have been in rotation for a few years now.

For instance, the song “Forks”, a beautiful, pensive tune, has been around since at least 2011. Another example of this is the track “The Silent Type.” This is a great example of the non-linear songwriting structure at work here: This track began life as an improvised segment of their song “1348”, from their performance at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on November 26, 2011, a performance I was actually in the crowd for. As time went on, the segment grew more and more polished, showing up in different compositions with subtle differences in the lyrics, until it finally made it onto a studio album. It’s a groovy, high-energy blast that really takes off in a live setting.

Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee on Technology, Time Off, and Musical Camaraderie

Other highlights include the slinky “Speak Up” featuring Joshua Redman on saxophone (a frequent collaborator with UM), the ominous “Remind Me” (a stuttering intro riff soon opens up into a glorious heavy thrash-metal segue into towering dual-guitar harmonies), and the electro, dance-heavy “Pirahnas.”

Umphrey’s McGee have built a name for themselves and developed a signature sound over their long career. There may not necessarily be any new ground here, but one thing fans of Umphrey’s McGee know is to expect the unexpected, and the material is of UM’s usual high quality. These songs have taken interesting paths to wind up on this album, and who knows how they’ll jump off in a live setting? It’s always exciting to hear fresh tunes from a hard-working group like UM, and it’ll be fun to see them continue to evolve and tour with this new album under their belt.

Rating: 8 out of 10

It’s Not Us by Umphrey’s McGee is available at music retailers everywhere.