Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food

by Rob Taylor Rating:6 Release Date:2018-04-06
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food

I was a kid when the likes of Steely Dan, America and the Doobie Brothers were churning out AM hits in the 1970s, but I bear the scars. Those in the industry responsible for resurrecting so called 'yacht rock' should be dragged before the hall of flame and made to repent for their saccharine nonsense.

There was once, however, a palatable nexus between soul-lite, disco and funk in mainstream music. Artists like Prince and Michael Jackson fused these uniquely African American forms into everyday dance music we could all derive guilty pleasure from - at least sometimes.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra manage to traverse these boundaries of taste with a kind of nonchalant aplomb. While I was listening to 'Not In Love We're Just High' it even occurred to me that the breathless stuttering of the vocal was part homage to Jackson, particularly in the sacrificing of diction for emotional impact. Jacko had to get the occasional yelp into the phrase to swoon the girls. The avoidance of a smooth legato line enabled that device. Ruban Neilson of UMO, however, desists from rolling out that cliché. He simply gulps for air.

The deployment of Wurlitzer-style keyboards on Sex & Food, particularly on track 'Everyone Acts Crazy These Days' lends some pretzel logic to the sound, and where the instrumental and vocal melodies align in perfect harmony, one recalls the hazy acoustic sunshine used to medicate fans weaning off years of prog-rock excess. Like Prozac in favour of Cannabis. There's a bit of that as well though on 'Chronos Feasts On His Children' which shares the characteristics of pastoral folk madrigals of the 1970s.

'American Guilt' is a pretty amusing track. It hasn't been said, but I swear it's the cynical cousin of James Murphy's American Dream, and sounds a bit like North American Scum, or at least that Sound of Silver era. A jaunty lament about being sucked into the political and social reality of a life under Trump, 'American Guilt' is a great track mixing rock 'n' roll and new disco.

The light-hearted sighing and breezy overtures of 'Hunnybee' recall Prince's struttin' funk days, and 'Ministry of Alienation' has some embedded asiatic textures in the guitar playing which invoke the spirit of George Harrison.

Sex & Food is bewildering, frustrating and reasonably entertaining.

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