Progressive-rock jam band Umphrey’s McGee released its seventh studio album, “Death By Stereo,” last Tuesday. Through the stylistic variance of each track on the album, Umphrey’s proves it is capable of producing exceptionally complex and catchy music in just about any genre.
Those who are familiar with the Chicago-based band’s previous albums will quickly notice that the lengths of the songs are shorter than they have been in the past. Even its last album, “Mantis,” was 13 minutes longer, even though it contains the same number of tracks as “Death by Stereo.” The album has more of a mainstream feel than the band’s previous releases. However, Umphrey’s most definitely has not “sold out.” The group remained true to its roots with remarkable musicianship and powerful rock riffs delivered by both lead guitarist Jake Cinninger and lead vocalist/guitarist Brendan Bayliss.
“Conduit,” which is perhaps the most impressive song on the album, is a prime example of the band’s versatility and evolution. With harmonious vocals on top of beautiful, melodic rhythms as well as breaks into heavy, Led Zeppelin-like guitar riffs, Umphrey’s shows that they have not fallen away from their unique complexity. With a playtime of only four minutes, however, the song is almost three minutes shorter than “Believe the Lie,” a stylistically similar song from their 2006 release, “Safety in Numbers.”
“Death by Stereo” is the perfect Umphrey’s album for those who are weary of the long, drawn-out jams that are common in the band’s older studio material. Even so, one should not expect to hear this condensed style of playing at an Umphrey’s concert. In fact, the group just recently performed the extremely funky “Booth Love,” complete with a horn section, which lasted nearly twice as long as the album version.
Whether it’s the soft instrumental acoustic piece, “Dim Sun,” the new wave synth-heavy “Miami Virtue,” the reggae flavored “Deeper” or the lightning-fast shredding in “Search 4,” “Death by Stereo” has something to please everybody.
Though different songs on the album might appeal more to different listeners depending on their musical preferences, anyone who has an open mind and enjoys good music could come to love each song on “Death by Stereo.” As the lyrics in “Conduit” indicate, “Generous comes the gift from the source as it is.”
Verdict: 4 stars (out of 5)