In what seems to me like the next logical step after 2005's Z, MMJ takes a step further with the deep soundscape of Evil Urges. In the title track Jim James' soaring and strangely beautiful falsetto is back in all of its "Wordless Chorus" style glory, and the lyrics are as eloquently simple as ever, in particular the chorus – "... evil urges... they're just part of the human race, but it ain't evil if it ain't hurting anybody." Strings accompany the distinctively Southern rock tinged guitar work and just when you think Jim's "I'm Ready for It Now" crooning is going to fade into sweet R&B oblivion the song heads into a completely different direction with a sweet country-fried, crunchy breakdown, bringing it all back home. This one is on permanent repeat. The next track to greet the listener is the slow groove "Touch Me I Think I'm Going To Scream Part 1". To me, not an overly outstanding song on it's own, it does act as the perfect bridge to what will undoubtedly be mine and many other's guilty pleasure of the summer - "Highly Suspicious." Again Jim's falsetto verges on a sonic orgasm, drawing clear comparisons to Prince. This could be a breakout surprise hit; I could see gangs of dancers getting down to the ground to the space-funk groove of the "Peanut-Butter-Pudding-Surprise" and the maniacal giggling. As groovy and downright fun as this track is, I could also see it being a pretty big turnoff for some diehard It Still Moves fans. Because this sure as hell ain't no "One Big Holiday." But the same folks should be very happy with "I'm Amazed", which is a straight ahead rocker in true MMJ southern rock fashion. Short, sweet with a rocking guitar outro, "I'm Amazed" should please all but the most discerning OG MMJ fan. "Thank You Too" leads the listener back into the R&B side of the Jacket; this one feels to me like a 70's R&B standard and contains some of my favorite lyrics of the offering. "Sec Walkin" is a sweet return to the "slow-burn" of pervious MMJ songs but still contains many R&B elements that tie together Evil Urges, especially the "Brother, don't you care?" section which sounds like an outtake from "What's Going On?" The predictable, but still enjoyable "Two Halves" leads to what may be the most interesting track on the record, "Librarian." Sparse and quiet with minimal instrumentation, the lyrics "When God give us mirrors, he had no idea" stand out amongst a tale of inner vs. outer beauty. "Look At You" seems to be a pretty clear example of Jim's faith and religion. But where Mr. Zimmerman came out with fire and brimstone on Slow Train Coming, Jim gives a gentle portrayal of his faith, which is very refreshing, uplifting and touching. For those you who are getting impatient and are missing the rock, look no further than "Aluminum Park." This rocker definitely harkens back to straight ahead tracks such as Z's "Anytime" and "What A Wonderful Man," complete with the trademark screams. "Remnants" is another rocker, at least compared with the R&B tracks in the first quarter of the record and the introspective numbers through the middle, which draws distinctive comparisons to Pearl Jam, at least to my casual Pearl Jam-listener ears, but with unmistakable MMJ-ness thrown in. I'm sure I'll catch some heat from this, but "Smokin' From Shootin" is hands down my favorite track of the record. For me, this is a classic track and shows James' gift for melody and phrasing and proves his worth as a songwriter. The track starts out simply and continues to build with soaring melodies and building intensity. This track both highlights the raw talent that was evident on The Tennessee Fire but still shows James' growth as a songwriter. "Touch Me I Think I'm Going To Scream Part 2" rockets the listener back to club world with a four-on-the-floor dance groove, synth leads and soaring vocals that are right at home in the current "alterna-dance" scene.
Evil Urges, as I said, has tons and tons of anticipation surrounding it. Personally, I can't ever remember being this excited for a new record, and I am not let down or disappointed in the least, although I am still slightly stunned. Will Evil Urges surpass Z as my favorite record of the 2000's? Only time will tell, but there is one thing I can be sure of – My Morning Jacket are not going anywhere but up, and the writing on the wall says to me that this very deserving band could soon be enjoying some serious mainstream success.
This feeling is wonderful, don't you ever turn it off.
Written by Andrew Davis