UMO - 'Sex & Food' Review
As psychedelic rock slowly becomes one of my favourite genres, it's nice to see a band that isn't a Tame Impala clone or a King Gizzard wannabe on the scene. Unknown Mortal Orchestra manage to prove themselves on 'Sex & Food' as one of the most interesting groups to spawn from the psychedelic-pop/rock genre. Opting for more groovy synths and jazzy drum patterns, the group offers a unique twist on the formula.
In 2011 they released their self-titled debut, a funky and spacey album that caught the attention of many, but unfortunately not me. I didn't jump onto the bandwagon until their third album 'Multi-Love', a diverse and strange album that left me wanting more. On 'Sex & Food' Unknown Mortal Orchestra draw upon their spacey and alien sound they have developed and perfected on their previous albums and slow it down. This album works on both sides of the psychedelic rock spectrum in an almost schizophrenic manner. The album's opener 'A God Called Hubris' is a slow, rhythmic, and jazzy guitar instrumental that immediately flows seamlessly into the second track 'Major League Chemicals'. The driving and heavy guitar introduction of ‘Major League Chemicals’ is a stark change in mood, moving from calculated to thrashing in seconds. One of the biggest strengths of the album, is its ability to constantly keep the listener confused while bopping to the beats.
This happens again on 'Chronos Feasts on His Children', possibly a Bon Iver inspired, lyric focused song with an isolated guitar and vocals. This moment of calm is once again broken by what is probably the group's most psych-rock inspired and loudest song they've ever produced. The angry, anti-American lyrics are shouted by frontman Ruban Nielson over a repetitive and swirling guitar loop that is hard not to get excited by.
Another strength of the album is its lyrics. If you've ever listened to them before then you will know that Unknown Mortal Orchestra are not known for their straight-forward lyrics. Once again, Ruban proves himself on this album to be as talented a songwriter as he is a vocalist as the core topics the album addresses range from Greek gods to American guilt. The tone ranges from melancholic on songs like 'The Internet of Love (That Way)' to blissful on 'Hunnybee', a song with so much bounce and energy that it might be my favourite song on the record. However, it's hard to shake the feeling that the group are playing it safe on a few of the songs on the album like 'How Many Zeros' that don't seem to offer much in the way of unique production or lyrics and re-use some of the group’s more played-out sounds.
This is an album that draws from many genres and leaps in styles from track to track, something that might seem disorientating at first. However, the more I have listened to this album the more I find its alien and dynamic sound to be infectious. ‘Sex & Food’ is amongst some of the band's best work and some of the best music New Zealand has to offer.
Check out the album in full here: