April 27, 2002

My Morning Jacket "Chocolate & Ice"

This little record is an interesting collection, and, really, I feel like it's a double-EP. Jim James and crew have really bneen working hard over the past year or two, and have been building up a reputation of being the purveyors/torch-bearers for "rock and roll." Chocolate and Ice is an interesting diversion for My Morning Jacket.

I say it's a great double EP because one song, "Cobra" is more than a mere song--it's an epic, 24-minute song, but instead of being a long jam session or dirge-like "movement," it's a compacted collection of about three or four different songs. It starts off with a slinky, slightly seductive drum-machine and bass beat that reminds me a lot of Prince's "Cream" with a hint of "Radioactive." There's also something rather sultry about James' voice set to a R'n'B beat. The song then fades into a country ballad, and, when done, goes straight into a blues jam, which then returns to a similar beat-driven number, which fades into an ambient instrumental that fades out into a country number with harmonies straight out of Brian Wilson's "Cabinessence" that concludes with a hip-hop shout-out session. Taken by itself, "Cobra" could very well stand alone as its own record.

For the most part, the rest of Chocolate and Ice seems to merely extend the musical ideas of their album At Dawn. "Can You See The Hard Helmet on my Head?" kicks off the EP with a marching-drum beat and Jim James' off-kilter growl. "Sooner" follows, a nice country acoustic ballad that would be quite at home on At Dawn. "Holy" and "Sweetheart" also follow closely to the At Dawn pattern of thick, syrupy singing over sad country accompanyment. "It's Been a Great 3 or 4 Years" is a series of answering machine messages from a former member of the band. An interesting break after the epic "Cobra," but ultimatly, it's really not an essential track.

Chocolate and Ice is an interesting little transitional record for My Morning Jacket. Building upon the grounds of their established sounds is always a good idea, and this record, especially "Cobra" helps to highlight the fact that My Morning Jacket has plenty of ideas up its sleeves.

--Joseph Kyle

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