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MMJ on “Gentlemen”

From a My Morning Jacket Interview:

For an idea what James was after with the disc productionwise, you can start with what he wasn’t aiming for. Back in the early 1990s, he was a champion of alt-nation landmarks like the Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen. But when he listens to such records today, he can’t help but feel that they haven’t aged well.

“I’ve always really tried to stay away from being an alternative-rock band,” James says. “We’re more interested in being a weird rock n roll band. Alternative rock hasn’t lasted, and I think it has something to do with the production. Take Weezer: their first album is a classic fucking record with great songs and great writing, but it sounds so early 1990s with that sort of heavy-distortion approach. Same with the Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.”

I tend not to be very reactionary – but Jim James just doesn’t get it. Maybe being in Elizabethtown has gone to his head, but where is he coming from? True, his quote doesn’t name drop the Whigs, but I get the feeling the reporter didn’t come up with the reference from thin air.

I like My Morning Jacket, and have long thought they channeled some Whigs tendencies (their cover of “Tyrone” is spot-on). But lately, I’ve felt they’re a one-trick pony. Frankly, it’s MMJ’s production and aesthetic that deserves to be challenged. Hasn’t aged well? “Gentlemen” is one of the best examples of 90s music that is still relevant and innovative – both in terms of production and songwriting. And, for the record, it sounds absolutely nothing like “Weezer” or “Siamese Dream.”

3 Responses to “MMJ on “Gentlemen””
  1. DMW says:

    My thoughts exactly as I read that- Gentlemen has none of the cliches mentioned, and only sounds “alternative” in that it sounds original.

  2. Rocko1978 says:

    Every MMJ song I’ve ever heard “didn’t age well” past the 30 second mark when the reverb-verb-verb finally got on my nerves enough that I had to quit it or stab myself in the ear with a pencil. That’s one phenomenon I’m just not getting.

    “Jim James” had a band back in the day when he was like 15 that I enjoyed called Month of Sundays, this was before he started singing like Neil Young, which I’m sure was a choice he made, much like that stupid beard which is a fashion faux paux many of my friends adopted when they got big. I’ve always taken great pride in pointing out how many Whigs-isms big Jim has appropriated, with the textless covers and the Soul covers and the like.

    I once shared some space with ex-MMJ guitarist “Johnny Quade” (actually John McQuade) at a party, he was the friend of a friend. He was a fan and even pushed for an early band he was in to cover “Going Back to Cali” or something, but he didn’t get any Whigs album past Gentlemen because “That’s the only one where Dulli was being real” and “after that he was trying to be Prince.” It all goes back to my long held contention that most “Alternative Rock” people have their heads straight up their asses. If you don’t own an album with a black person on the cover besides Congregation, I’m looking right at you, here. Dulli has always integrated a huge tapestry of influences into his work and I think it’s lost on many.

    That dude was also crapping on the Clash and I told him “Well, I think your band is shit.” Long, uncomfortable silence followed.

    Nice enough guy, I heard he got married to a (much) older woman and now lives out west somewhere. Our mutual friend disowned him for not keeping in touch.

  3. engaƱosa says:

    What is already cliché is using reverb on the vocals of EVERY SONG and doing “ironic” covers of songs you don’t really like but are “so bad they’re good”. The Afghan Whigs always had their own sound that couldn’t be pegged into any specific genre because their influences were so broad. Was Jim James living on the same planet as the rest of us in the 1990’s? AW never fit into the “alternative” mold and that is probably why they didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

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