Album Review: Umphrey’s McGee – Similar Skin

Following yet another monster production with Death By Stereo, Umphrey’s McGee released their eighth album (sixth studio) Similar Skin on June 10th. Before we dive into the examination of this album let me just say how amazingly complex Umphrey’s composition has been over the last ten years of studio production. Their first in-studio album, Anchor Drops, still remains one of my favorite works by any artist and features intricate drum beats and untimely, yet precise guitar riffs that blend together in an intense rhythmic experience combining elements of metal, blues, jazz and electronic music. Continuing the trend on later works like Safety in Numbers and Mantis, Umphrey’s McGee denies any genre barriers that seem to confine most bands. Performing garage-like punk alongside pound breakdowns and smooth jazzy sections, the band continues to confuse and astound new listeners as they have for the last fifteen years.

After seeing the band perform live last year at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage in August, as well as a couple of months later at the iconic Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, my obsession with the group went off the charts. Similar Skin brings the traditional feel of Umphrey’s, smearing face-melting guitar solos with idealistic and challenging lyrics flowing together to create what I think is their best studio effort to date.

Opening up with a track that has been on Umphrey’s live docket for years, “The Linear” kicks off the album with a spacey, bass driven section that smoothly explodes into an effect-heavy guitar part highlighting the heavy side of the album. Urging the listener to trust their intuition and live in the present tense rather than constantly worrying about the future, the song culminates in a wicked tapping solo by lead guitarist Jake Cinninger.

Skipping ahead to the fifth track on the album, “Puppet String”, which also made its live debut years earlier in 2011 at Three Sister’s Park in Chillicothe, Illinois, begins with a choppy guitar riff that cuts out in a sudden break leading into a mind-blowing tapping part by founding member and bassist Ryan Stasik. Shouting some of the most powerful lyrics on the album, lead singer Brenden Bayliss sings “If everyone’s so unsure of what’s really below or above us, then maybe we all buy in and take our own collective end?” Preceding this thought-provoking question, the band teams up to lay down one of the most dynamic breakdowns on the album.

Other notable songs on the album include “Cut the Cable”, “No Diablo”, the title track “Similar Skin”, and “Loose Ends”. Wrapping up the album in typical Umphrey’s fashion, the nine-minute ballet Bridgeless showcases the sheer talent of drummer Kris Myers who provides the driving force behind the track’s rhythmic progressions. Reaching the end, Cinninger and Bayliss infuse their guitar rifts, composing a squealing merger between the instruments, bringing the album to its close.

All this being said, I am, and you should be as well, ecstatic to see Umphrey’s McGees’ debut at Tower Theatre on August 9th.

Photo credit to Sun-Times Media.

1 Comment

  1. David

    July 2, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Good stuff Tim, gotta make sure that I download this album.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.