Umphrey’s McGee are to any modern listener or musician strange, but also really good; interestingly exploring classic rock guitar and jazz while not giving into jazz. Obviously they have a niche audience, and a niche vibe, without a lot of negative impressions. They play experimental, metal, and a talented rhythm section, with mostly positive lyrics.
What can be said about them and Zonkey? They are very good and weird. The opening “National Loser Anthem” or part Radiohead, part Phil Collins, part Beck cover was an odd choice to begin things with rap over it, but the album moves better afterwards, upward, flying way above clouds as the first song is nothing like the rest in a good way. The former track mellows and lags, while the others have energy. This seems a much better style for Umphrey’s McGee, being experimentally rock-jazz fusion comedy or parody sketch artists.
They also seem very techno and noisy at times, the upstarts in the currency of musical quality and certainly of today’s scene. With Zonkey not being Umphrey’s McGee’s first go-round in editing the celebrities once a mimic of Jimmy Carter, vanquished and nonplussed internet goers and they now do podcasts with others such as Jimmy Fallon.
Then, the weird gets weirder here, as upstart rockers cover more than just sound bites but literally an entire albums worth of songs, from the aforementioned Phil Collins, Radiohead, and Beck cover, which is played on by “National Loser Anthem“, and “Sad Clint Eastwood” is obviously “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillaz, to “Life During Exodus” (“Rock the Casbah”) and “Bulls on a Bus” (“Bulls on Parade”), even “Come As Your Kids”, which is several songs covered in one and probably the truest one in some sense of the original spirit of the songs.
Zonkey starts out kind of shaky, but fans may be into it as they expect many tight twists and bold riffs, which this does over the originals, but it also raps over some of them which could be in range if it were not that none of these are too hip hop sounding tracks. Plus other covers like “Life During Exodus” is “Rock The Casbah” and “Come As Your Kids” is “Kids” by MGMT with “Come as You Are” by Nirvana mostly in lyrics. There are some less desirable songs, as “Ace of Long Nights”, which is an odd ”Ace of Spades” Motörhead cover, and “Can’t Rock My Dreamface” is odd and techno as well, but overall the quality is good.
Moving on to “Sweet Sunglasses”, ”Frank Zombie“, and ”Bulls On The Bus”, which is of course “Bulls on Parade”, these continue to be solid experimental rock tracks. Lastly, “Bittersweet Haj”, which is the interestingly experimental cover of The Verve, “Electric Avenue To Hell (feat. Jennifer Hartwell)” is “Highway To Hell”, and these round out the weirdness. These are mostly good tracks, as previously mentioned, but some weird stuff even in somewhat normalized aforementioned “Rock the Casbah” remix, “Life During Exodus”, ”Sad Clint Eastwood” is solid and louder than the original also.
Carry the mantle of prog fusion jazz till you die Umphrey’s McGee. In that if one creates the blend of rock like Umphrey’s McGee, then a Zonkey eventually appears with no surprise.