April 20, 2005

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Umphrey’s McGee, Safety in Numbers
Sci Fidelity Music, 2006

Never mind the We Are Scientists-level hyping that’s hamstrung every reviewer from the Washington Post to Rolling Stone - Safety in Numbers is a taut but underwhelming prog-jam, out to bamboozle the tie-dye world with fluttering keyboards boosted from “Close to the Edge,” slappy drums that require a Stuart Copeland student at a minimum, wuss-guitar braggadocio in amped and unplugged forms, and Essence of Flaming Lips sprayed around to attract alt-noob ooh-ahh-ers. “Believe the Lie” picks up where “Synchronicity” left off in the 80s, interpolating flashes of mid-career Phish and bar-band breakdowns into its not-unexciting sonic boyishness, but that turns out to be a sound check for the low-tech, unadventurous Traffic and Jerry angles later tried on for size. Huey Lewis personally arose from his dentist-office-AOR grave to help turn “Women Wine and Song” into a Dave Matthews rewrite of “Blackwater,” “End of the Road” offers faux-baroque Ovation that’s too much like “Bron-y-Aur” to dislike completely, and “Nemo” jams pianissimo and otherwise to a refried Edgar Winter/Allmans bellbottom-wiggler. C+

— Eric W. Saeger


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