When I first heard the name “Unknown Mortal Orchestra,” I assumed it belonged to some emo or punk group. Turns out, the band makes psychedelic rock. Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO) took a lo-fi approach with their first two albums, but their third album, “Multi-Love,” sounds more like garage rock served with a side of psychedelic overtones.
The title track kicks off the album. It is a bit difficult to decipher some of the lyrics, mostly because it is easy to get lost in Ruban Nielson’s glossy vocals and Riley Geare’s far-from-subtle drum tracks.
The album’s next song, “Like Acid Rain,” has a psychedelic pop vibe to it, in the same vein of Tame Impala’s music. The music is great, but the chorus, which is practically a repetition of the words “La la la yeah,” gets old fast. The track could have used some better lyrics from Nielson, who serves as the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist.
“Ur Life One Night” contains the lyrics “You’re cornered, and she just needs revolution /That’s cute, but she’s no pearl of Gisborne.” This could be a reference to the New Zealand city of Gisborne, as the band is from New Zealand and the U.S. The track features some funky riffs courtesy of the band’s bassist, Jake Portrait.
“Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” has a ‘70s disco feel to it, similar to Madonna’s classic 1990 hit, “Vogue.” The comparison seems random, but the song is one of the album’s strengths.
The fifth song on “Multi-Love” is “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty,” which channels some of the earlier work from UMO. The lo-fi ambiance goes well with Geare’s percussion talents.
The soul atmosphere on “The World is Crowded” sounds as if UMO was inspired by Prince. The song is one of many on “Multi-Love” that incorporates references to drugs and repeated use of the pronoun “she,” as seen in the lyrics “Would she listen to a recording of my silly voice/On the last day of her life?” The lyrics are slightly peculiar, but Nielson’s smooth voice is at its finest.
“Stage or Screen” harkens back to the psychedelic rock genre that UMO has become famous for. The heavy guitar riffs work for the rock feel the band was going for. Plus, the chorus is pretty retrospective: “Actor, but never for stage or screen /Acting like you’ve never seen.” One cannot help but wonder who this song was written about.
“Necessary Evil” proves to be an un-“necessary” track on “Multi-Love.” The song is boring with its slow pace and Nielson’s unenthusiastic singing.
The album ends with the song “Puzzles,” which is roughly seven minutes long. The track starts off sounding very ‘90s alternative and then abruptly transitions to garage rock. This decision works out well, and the song is a nice closing track.
UMO’s new music leans more toward garage rock, and the choice to experiment works out nicely for the band.