No-one Listens To Albums In Full Anymore: Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food
An homage to the art of the album. First to last, no skipping, no playlisting. The album in its purest form.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food
What better way to start a series reviewing albums front to back than to feature one so fluid and resistant to genre forms for albums. Sex & Food is fragmented to the point that its incoherence is what brings it together; as odd as that may sound. We hear folk, disco, RnB and heavy rock united on one album as if it was a playlist. "I just think that the way people listen to music now is so fragmented and eclectic that I don't see any problem with it" - Ruban Nielson.
The album begins with 'A God Called Hubris', an instrumental which perhaps resembles UMO's previous albums more than any other track on Sex & Food. It then lurches straight into 'Major League Chemicals', and we are away into a world of Jimi Hendrix guitar slaying. In this world we wade through thick fuzz, and melodies and hammer-ons roam freely. But where on other albums such an opening foray would set the tone for what's to come, we don't enter this world again until 'American Guilt' three tracks later. In-between is the mild psychedelia of 'Ministry Of Alienation', the bouncy and catchy 'Hunnybee', and folk song 'Chronos Feasts On His Children', (here's a cool live version Ruban recorded live for The Wireless and RNZ with his brother Kody). This pinballing continues for the rest of the album.
Albums generally have centring elements that our ears use to differentiate one from another, so we can place them on spectrums. They help us understand them. This album's centring elements are based in different genres individually (rather than melded), which when taped together into one piece of art leaves a feeling that it's harder to grasp, or it's disjointed. In reality, this is a reflection of modern life - of having multiple things on the go at once, of being ultra-connected and disconnected at the same time. Kind of like a Spotify playlist.
The majority of the video for 'Not In Love We're Just High' in itself resembles a GIF.
What makes it work is that it is balanced. The jumping around never gets out of hand; for every 'Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays' there's a 'This Doomsday'. Or there's the measured balance on 'Not In Love We're Just High', where a groove is added to enhance the song, rather than be a feature as it is on 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone'. In some ways this album is equal sex and food. Isn't the whole greater than the sum of its parts, or something?
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