Over its 72 expansive minutes, rock’n’roll is not reimagined as some complex alien form. The landscapes it describes are American, laid out under vast blue skies. The emotions it touches are familiarly human: a little awkward and brave, a little poignant and self-deprecating.” To all the people I’ve loved, don’t think poor of me,” pleads Jim James on the final “One In The Same”, and it seems like he’s been here forever.
The reason being, perhaps, that My Morning Jacket’s frequently awesome music fits so easily into the pantheon. Sure, new ways of negotiating music are essential. But when a band come along with such a firm handle on the transformative powers of long hair and electric guitars, it seems churlish to ask for more. It’s hard to remember the last time a band grappled so confidently with the elements of this music, who knew precisely how to balance the sounds of longing and abandon.
It’s tough, too, believing that James and his four accomplices have bettered their second album, 2001’s At Dawn (reissued earlier this year on Wichita). But, It Still Moves ups the ante, giving James’ elegiac songs the kind of muscle his band display live. Only one song here comes in at under five minutes, and a few stray well over seven, sounding as if the band are so lost in the music that they have no idea how to end them.
Unusually, it’s a welcome self-indulgence. As the lovely “Steam Engine” keens away into the twilight, or “Mahgeeta” barrels towards the border, you want My Morning Jacket to keep going indefinitely. Like many of their contemporaries, their model remains Neil Young: “Master Plan” and “Run Thru”, in particular, suggest James may have spent a year or two listening to nothing but “Cortez The Killer” and “Like A Hurricane”. His falsetto doesn’t wobble like some Young disciples, though, having instead a resilience and flexibility that’s just as reminiscent of early rock romantics like Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney. And his band’s ragged virtuosity often touches on territory last owned by Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers.
But It Still Moves is much more than a homage to old ways. It’s a record of passion and richness, with a hoard of memorable songs, that demands to be treated as the equal of its inspirations. An album birthed by the classics, then, that we should probably get used to treating as one.