II... We see right through that gimmick
Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
Published on February 13th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
They’re from Portland and New Zealand, huh? Yes, that sounds about right: there’s the DIY psychedelia characteristic of the former ‘scene’, and the fuzzy sunshine textures attendant with the latter. In this sense it’s pretty similar to their splendid 2011 debut – and, to be honest, it’s significantly down on surprises – but the songs are still so great as to practically insist on forgiveness.
Opener “From the Sun” is a belter, coming across like some blissful early Super Furry Animals b-side (that’s a resounding commendation, by the way) ran by Andrew Bird, served in a White Album sauce with a seasoning of early Shins. We could also namecheck, ooh, Tame Impala and The Bees if we wanted to, so as to leave you in little doubt that what Unknown Mortal Orchestra deal in is high-quality psychedelic pop with a satisfying groove to it.
“Swim and Sleep” could be straight off Oh, Inverted World were it not for the presence of a bit of Spinto Band in there too, “So Good at Being in Trouble” is an instant hit with its chorus like some blissful soul classic, its lazily enraptured bass and Big Star guitar riff, while the utterly delightful “The Opposite of Afternoon” leads Kinks/Olivia Tremor Control sort of bounce into an almost impossibly breezy strand of vintage English psychedelia the likes of which is being kept alive by The Sufis and The Paperhead.
UMO arguably take their eye off the ball a little during the LP’s mid section, but the murky, mind-blown jam of “No Need For a Leader”, the cosily melting-in-on-itself “Monki” and monged felty synth sirens of “Dawn” are by no means without their charms. The ensuing “Faded in the Morning” outright cannot have been recorded in this decade, surely, but it rocks so damn much on its way to being the stand-out track, with honourable mentions for another superbly rasping vocal performance from Ruban Nielson and a big ol’ probing bass.
Closer “Secret Xtians” sounds as if John Lennon and Dave Davies had stumbled into the machine out of The Fly sometime around 1968, and this kind of sums up II: inescapably derivative but gosh darn irresistible. It may lack some of the more wrong-footing properties of its predecessor, but Rocksucker already feels confident that this is one we’ll still enjoy when we revisit it later in the year.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
II is out now on Jagjaguwar. For more information, please visit unknownmortalorchestra.com