BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
One of Umphrey’s McGee’s greatest strengths lies in the fact that they seem to defy characterization… and in many cases, expectations as well. Although the initial inclination might be to label them a jam band – a term that’s always been somewhat ambiguous as well – a closer listen to their shifting dynamics makes that classification seem somewhat tenuous. With Similar Skin, their eighth album – and first since 2011 – the group takes dramatic liberties with their forward-leaning approach, venturing into hard rock territory with an assured heavy metal rumble. “Little Gift,” “Loose Ends” and “Hindsight” aren’t recommended for the timid listener or those who are faint of heart. Still, that tenacity can be attributed to Umphrey’s McGee kinetic pacing and a decidedly determined thrust, a contrast of tone and tempo that often intersects within the context of a single song. Indeed, these aren’t the kind of songs that would inspire a sing-along to begin with, although the lithe and carefree “No Diablo” and the loping intro to “Bridgeless” allow a momentary respite from the otherwise breathless pacing.
Newcomers may not find Similar Skin the ideal place to begin, but longtime admirers will probably swoon in awe.
DOWNLOAD: “No Diablo,” “Bridgeless”