Umphrey's McGee: Mantis

By: Brian Heisler

A new President; a new Umphrey's McGee album. That's the way the band would like to have you consider it anyway. And just as the Presidential inauguration is heavily anticipated, Mantis (released January 20 on SCI Fidelity) seems to be the most anticipated Umphrey's McGee album to date. The band's innovative approach to launching the album with pre-sales that encouraged loyal fans to coerce friends to buy the album via pre-sale in order to "unlock" tiers of bonus content online, which indeed pushed several thousand pre-sales. Much like the Presidency, the music that follows on Mantis represents change, boasting fresh, new sounds, never before played in public.

The string work of Christopher Hoffman and Nathan Swanson is immediately apparent on the first track and single, "Made to Measure." This new attribute to the Umphrey's sound continues throughout the album, working as a bridge in connecting a more serious, often-dark tone to traditional rock and lyric-driven anthems. The title track follows the usual Umphrey's structure on a journey through pain and triumph, ranging from dark, heavy twang to the bright, crisp vocals of Brendan Bayliss and ringing guitar of Jake Cinninger.

"Red Tape" and "1348" round out the album in similar signature fashion, boasting an enjoyable, Huey Lewis-like chorus bordered by thrashing rock (ever since the release of Safety In Numbers, we seem to be looking for Huey to rise from the wings somewhere). Umphrey's McGee invented the style of jumping over blatant walls of bright melody and heavy darkness in the same song – an unconventional move, but somehow Umphrey's makes it work time and time again.

Not that Umph's has ever been known for writing poppy, catchy tunes, but Mantis is crafted from different building blocks than previous releases. For better or for worse, the melodic sing-alongs are largely absent from this album, or are at least not as powerfully notable. Where past UM albums may have been the soundtrack of a party, Mantis is altogether different. What may be the band's most musical effort yet may not rank high among fan favorites in the end, but it goes a long way to represent the concentrated musicianship and craftsmanship that has generally been more apparent in the live setting than in the studio.

Joel Cummins' keys combine with the strings to enrich a heavy rock sound, Kris Myers' drums have grown to become a center point for the sound rather than its support, and the combination of Cinninger's guitar and Bayliss' voice continues to rip through each tune - the unmistakable, forged fingerprint of the band. From the business plan to the arrangements to the old fashion LP-style record sleeve, Mantis is, above all, art from some of the most well-respected and formidable artists on the scene today.

JamBase | Deep Water
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[Published on: 1/28/09]

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willsummers starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/28/2009 07:32PM
+8 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This CD is incredible...

rainydaywomen420 Wed 1/28/2009 07:39PM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
cbr2brich starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 12:51AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Juan starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 06:00AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This album is a masterpiece. Turn and Run is ridiculous... and Jake's solo is the stuff of legends. A brilliantly concieved album and proficiently executed. Cemetary Walk 1 and 2 are just stellar.

Top flight album from one of the best bands around. more prog than anything but I am lovin' it!



sugapablo Thu 1/29/2009 06:24AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I freakin' love the album. Yes, it's different, but in a GOOD way. I listened to it with headphones on melting in my chair and was in another world.

Had lots of "nods" to older tracks (like I Want You/She's So Heavy). One minute nodding to the Beatles and the next nodding to various 80's tracks, all while being uniquely UM.


GratefulHokie Thu 1/29/2009 06:51AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I never got budged on the Umphrey's thing, though I've caught the tail end of a few of their sets and enjoyed them. Anyone say this a good first album to pickup or should I start with the older material?

URTH2URTH starstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 08:14AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


^^ i suggest starting with older material (anchor drops), moving to safety in numbers than getting this album to hear the bands progression. all 3 albums mentioned are exremely good imo, though the new one is so different it takes some getting used to, but once you do its great. i think mantis would be harder to get into if you weren't accustomed to umphreys style and sound. anchor drops and safety in numbers are much more straight forward than manits, which has a lot of clashing styles that somehow work on this album in most spots. honestly i expected some better solos from jake (turn and run is pretty sick though) seems they focused more on collaboration that lead work. some of the tracks will never grow on me i fear, but the vocals are stellar on mantis. 1348 and cemetary walk pt 1. are just incredible. the song mantis is hard for me o get into, it doesn't flow very well, so many parts but i love what the band is doing as a whole.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 09:00AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I love this CD. Looking forward to the tour and most esp the acoustic show in New Haven.

King Rhino starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 09:30AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This is their SGT. PEPPER'S ... Gorgeous album ... And well worth the $50 I paid for the super-deluxe edition ....

torfan ... Definitely looking forward to the acoustic show at Toad's Place, too ....

gmoo Thu 1/29/2009 10:25AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This album is great.

CarHitDeerYum Thu 1/29/2009 10:37AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

You know, bayless plays guitar too and is just as good as jake.....

drumStark Thu 1/29/2009 11:03AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I like Bayliss's style more than Jake's, but Jake is definitely "better"

drumStark Thu 1/29/2009 11:03AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


And I also agree that that deluxe package was worth it.

ratatatpat Thu 1/29/2009 12:25PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


if only cemetary walks pt. 2 was not on the album. That track sticks out and does not flow with the rest of it.

Roswellznutsack Thu 1/29/2009 01:04PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Dude Ive trahsed these guys about their live shows I saw on other threads but Ill give em props for this album. Its pretty tight yo!

Matt.Recchia starstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 01:39PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Awesome, awesome album. It may have been a bit over-hyped, but it was well worth the wait, plus the amount of material available online for the album is more than I've ever seen with any other album. I mean, they pretty much documented the entire creation of the album.

djdaddyp starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/29/2009 02:30PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


As far as UM albums go I would call this one the grower. I liked it on the first listen, but about 3 days later I had one of those moments where I woke up with a riff in my head and say to myself, "What song is that from? I'd like to listen to it" And it was from Mantis. A heavily accomplished album has lengthy sprawling epics, SO, I don't know where this poppy notion is coming from.

In short, I like it, and its getting better. Anchor Drops is hard to beat as far a UM singles go.

schofizzl Fri 1/30/2009 12:28AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


holy jebus, did rozewell seriously just say that? thumbs up to you my friend, thumbs up.

twophargone Fri 1/30/2009 07:20AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I am definitely a fan of the new album even on the first listen. I agree with djdaddyp as well. Living in Colorado it was Umphrey overload last weekend and I was finding riffs in my head off the new album. Let me tell you they are already throwing down on these new tunes live as well. By the end of the Fillmore show last weekend it was sensory overload! Even my wife attended the last show and she's not the biggest Umph fan when cranking live shows around the house was blown away. Must see live band to truly appreciate was her lesson for last weekend! Can't wait for my next l show!

twophargone Fri 1/30/2009 07:29AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

One more comment. Stellar light show for a small club band even with no drugs involved! "Accept Weed"

twophargone Fri 1/30/2009 07:32AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

OOPS- "except weed" Although you should "accept" weed as well

elmcdnld starstarstarstar Fri 1/30/2009 08:10AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I hear that crazy band, Lightajo, is playing the Umphrey's afterparty in Memphis, TN on 3/28 ...

That will be insane

funkyfreshL40 starstarstar Fri 1/30/2009 12:17PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


this is the first time ive felt so strongly that i wanted to comment . this album is pure greatness . thats all there is to it . best new rock album ive heard in years . soundtrack to my life . first time i saw umph was at gathering of the vibes 08 . they blew my mind then and then outdit themselves with this album . cant wait to see how it all plays out live . april in new england is looking really good !

kandrokitis starstarstarstarstar Sat 1/31/2009 09:52AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i really think this is the most solid studio album i've heard by a jam band in a while, and it's one of my favorite new studio albums by any band period. Cemetary Walk is a great track. can't wait til April to see them play stuff from this live.

ClaysTribe starstarstarstarstar Sat 1/31/2009 12:21PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


^ oh so true

SlaveTotheDarkStar starstarstarstarstar Sun 2/1/2009 02:11PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Awesome album. I've seemed to notice a difference between UMs live shows that I've seen and their previous albums , but it seems like they've finally been able to pull that energy and innovativeness into the studio. Excellent job UM.

FreshFlavor starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/2/2009 08:55AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I was so impressed how they were able to seamlessly transition into so many different Genres of music. Beatles flavor, Floyd Groove, a little prog rock, a little cosmic exploratory guitar...its all in there. The band really put their heart and soul into this studio effort. This album is reflection of years of growth and collective vision. Excellent piece of musicianship. Long live the Umph.

mcfarlands412 starstarstarstarstar Tue 2/3/2009 01:44PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


the cd is excellent and the bonus material is unreal, great job all the way around

Adamist starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/4/2009 10:06AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Awesome album... the guitar solo on Turn & Run is SICK. And I am just in love with certain sections of the title track. Probably my favorite UM album!

mkgee starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/4/2009 01:27PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Are we sure that it's Jake on the end of "Turn and Run?" Because it doesn't really sound like his style. Jake typically has his calling card and it wasn't left at the end of that solo. Definitely sounds like a more traditional rock solo which is more Brendan's style back from the Greatest Hits day... Just wondering aloud.

Mantis is easily their most cohesive album to date, and their best production effort. They scored big time here

kayaker247 Thu 2/5/2009 05:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I listening to it online right now... sounds pretty damn good to me, I'll be buying it!

kayaker247 Thu 2/5/2009 05:26PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I'm ^...