For a Southern-rock outfit with epic hair and a Kentucky pedigree, My Morning Jacket is uniquely squirrelly. Evil Urges, the band's fifth studio album, flits purposefully from genre to genre, toying with bits of prog, soul, disco, alt-country, and classic guitar squall. But Evil Urges doesn't feel bloated or overlong (though, like previous efforts, the cover art is endearingly terrible), and the band has stopped relying so heavily on big, grain-silo reverb—meaning the record feels infinitely smaller and less mysterious than its predecessors.
Although his bandmates make an impressive ruckus, Jim James' high, lunar howl has always been My Morning Jacket's glowing center, and the most disappointing aspect of Evil Urges is its relentless obfuscation of his voice. For the title track, James rolls out a chirpy falsetto (one of a handful of Prince-aping moments here) that—while bemusing and not entirely unsuccessful—is also a lame substitute for feral, toe-curling bays. "Highly Suspicious," which opens with synthy bass-farts and a promise of "peanut-butter puddin' surprise," ultimately gets eaten up by a chant-a-long chorus that sounds like it's being sung by a military robot and a giggly little girl.
"I'm Amazed" is a sweaty road anthem for highway-speeding, and it's dopey-but-satisfying in the grand tradition of the Allman Brothers' "Blue Sky," while "Librarian"—despite being about the most tedious sex fantasy ever—is dark and eerie, all rich, echoing vocals and spectral guitar. Although Evil Urges never reaches the gut-tickling peaks of 2001's At Dawn, it still reiterates My Morning Jacket's ability to make music that sounds like everything and nothing at all.