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My Morning Jacket - Okonokos Review

by Patrick Muldowney

Before writing, I felt the need to find the meaning of "Okonokos". No matter how I limited each search, all uses of the name remained tied to My Morning Jacket. Finally I stumbled on an article explaining that the word came to Jim James in a dream. Immediately I felt entranced, slipping into a world of taupe shadows and q-shaped fakirs. One approached me, passing a trapezoidal shaped card, and as I turned the card in my hand this word struck me: nieukolusiclous. And with that I had the best word to describe my review for Okonokos. For comprehension sake though, I will plain text this Nieukolusiclean adventure.

The Okonokos DVD is an incidental hour and a half of music trapped inside a ten-minute film. While attending a turn of the century party, a man develops a forbidden affinity for an alpaca. As they go out for some fresh air, since the decorative mounted heads of other animals may be nauseating to her, a crowd is heard in the distance. Tracking through the woods, the couple finds The Fillmore (of all places), where My Morning Jacket is accompanied by strobe lights, smoke machines, and a magnificent light show (quite a transition from the candlelit party). This foolishly meaningless beginning is finally usurped by 18 live tracks, though somehow the plot is never vanquished, as live performances often feature shots of our protagonist grooving to the moment, or drifting off into a hypnotic flashback. In the end, the man meats his demise as a bear rips him to pieces. Maybe he stole the bear's girlfriend. Whatever the theme: My Morning Jacket can transcend time, My Morning Jacket is a beast in alpaca's clothing, or My Morning Jacket is earthly magic, it is neither humorous nor intriguing.

The concert, on the other hand, other than its light show (overboard at times) proves why MMJ could be "The Great American Band". They may not believably convert a turn of the century character, but this DVD, an arrangement of their work thus far, has converted many disparate sects of modern-day listeners. They are certainly the first band for which I could share appreciation with hippies. Like a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, this band cannot be typecast into southern rock, folk/acoustic, jam, or hard rock, because, regardless of the band's appearance, the music is shape shifting (what I thought Okonokos might mean). Once they draw you in musically, you travel along, even if it's not your normal cup of tea, because it is brilliant. Like vines and greenery strewn across a fully wired stage, My Morning Jacket is both organic and artificial. Beginning with the release of Z, they've tried to be as clearly honest about this exploration as possible.

Okonokos is a theatrical performance of varying degrees. On one extreme, "It Beats 4 U" is an all out rock out, with Patrick Hallahan and Two Tone Tommy playing faceless hairball bobble heads, and Jim James thrashing and lurching through harrowing reverb. The sound is prodigious, and the deliverers godlike. To the other extreme, songs like "Golden" allow a less hectic view of the inner workings of the band. The beats, notes, and chords are toned down until every instance is decipherable. Wherever the pendulum swings, Okonokos is clearly delivered by a practiced unit who understands actions and perceptions. Just as they refuse the confinement of genre, they refuse hallucinogen-influenced super jams (teasing at times) and romantic wallowing. The writing is admirable, the set is balanced, and, once the cinematic attempt is excused, Okonokos is evidence of the musical and visual force of My Morning Jacket.

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