My Morning Jacket: "Wordless Chorus"


By Clayton Purdom | 9 January 2008

Wherein Jim James & Co. summon forth “Benny and the Jets” as covered by River of Dreams-era Billy Joel backed by Coldplay. During the titular wordless chorus, softly muted guitars whittle their way toward the band’s past, but the monster-on-a-leash drums and big round bass notes sound like Yoshimi ditching all that robot fighting shit to get stoned with her roommate and listen to Voodoo Lounge.

Whether or not this constitutes an atrocity depends entirely on who you ask. It’s no “Mahgeetah,” that’s for damn sure. Those lulled in by the comforting, reductive clichés about the band (it starts with Lynyrd and ends with ripoff) will find nary a finger-lickin’ three-note-trillin’ geetar-squealin’ solo here, and, to be sure, these fans will probably hate this song, the leadoff track from the forthcoming Z. “It sounds like ‘Benny and the Jets!’” they’ll shriek. “Where’s my goddamn solo!” To which the song’s proponents will reply, “The band is growing, don’t you see? They’re becoming a new My Morning Jacket! Give them room, you tight-ass!” And then the haters will be all, “A new My Morning Jacket? I just want more My Morning Jacket! I’ve got enough fucking Coldplays already!” Fisticuffs will obviously ensue.

In the middle of all the flailing, punching speculation is this simple pop song, these wordless choruses, these hums and drums and non-solos and at least a minute of Jim James yelping at the outer register of his vocals and our patience. In one of the song’s most subdued, gripping moments, James coos, “We are the innovators / They are the imitators,” as if to counter the critics in advance. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s okay. Nothing about this song does.