Umphrey's McGee Similar Skin on 180g 2LP + Download
With their eighth studio album, Similar Skin, and first for their own indie label, Nothing Too Fancy (N2F) Music, Umphrey’s McGee – which formed on the Notre Dame campus outside of South Bend, Indiana in 1997 – has something to prove. And that’s not just to their ever-loyal fan base, but to those who have never heard a note, or worse – dismiss them as “too sophisticated, too complex” or think they know what Umphrey’s McGee is all about.
“We’re definitely not associated with a three-minute verse-chorus-verse song structure,” admits singer-songwriter-guitarist Brendan Bayliss about the new album’s “trim the fat” direction, which saw them aim to strut their rock and progressive roots. This time around, those musical touchstones range from the melodicism of Police, U2, the Beatles and Nirvana, the symphonic prog of Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis to the heavy metal thunder of Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Soundgarden, and Pantera. “Every night, we have the opportunity to play whatever and however long we want. Going into the studio, the challenge was to be as concise as possible, to trim all the fat we could.”
Produced by Umphrey’s McGee in conjunction with Manny Sanchez and Greg Magers and recorded in between tour dates at I.V. Labs in Chicago, Similar Skin was conceived as “a coherent vision,” featuring plenty of dynamics and contrast, with many of the songs coming from their live repertoire. Thematically, Bayliss was inspired by his own fatherhood, tackling such issues as living in the moment (“The Linear”), his own mortality (“Cut the Cable,” “Hourglass”), having children (“No Diablo”), the things that bring us together (“Similar Skin”), pondering the existence of a higher power, (the Ryan Stasik slap-bass-driven “Puppet String”), sleep-walking (“Educated Guess”), the art of storytelling and, according to Brendan, adding mysteriously, “some unresolved issues from the past” (“Loose Ends”).
Similar Skin has all the dynamics fans have come to expect from Umphrey’s McGee, including their famed improvisations, which can be heard on the closing, nine-minute “Bridgeless,” a live staple for nearly a decade finally committed to record. The only things missing, by the nature of audio, are the patented hand signals the group is famed for employing on-stage to communicate with one another. But these 11 songs could only have been performed by a band attuned to one another’s every move through 16 years of non-stop touring.
Similar Skin is the band’s latest musical missive to their audience, offering their own brand of “fatherly” advice, from a perspective of maturity and growth, both musically and personally. It is something their fans have come to expect from Umphrey’s McGee, who have forged a career on that relationship. Similar Skin is not just an album for Umphrey’s McGee and their legion of fans, but an effort that deserves the attention of anyone with an interest in forward-thinking musicians who don’t fit into an easy-to-categorize box. If you think you know what Umphrey’s McGee is all about, guess again.
Umphrey's McGee Similar Skin Track Listing:
1. The Linear
2. Cut the Cable
4. No Diablo
5. Similar Skin
6. Puppet String
7. Little Gift
8. Educated Guess
9. Loose Ends
12. Morning Song (bonus track)
13. Room To Breathe (bonus track)