‘Sex and Food’ was announced in early February, Unknown Mortal Orchestra main man Ruban Nielson revealed that, with it, he “wanted to embrace this abandoned genre of rock music that I keep reading is ‘dead’ and invite people to hear what this living dead genre sounds like in the UMO universe.” An admirable pursuit, sure, but a remarkably self-effacing one at that. In the progressively singular world imagined by UMO, an invitation to their take on said living dead genre has been wide open since 2011.
But there is particular reason for Nielson to feel a little brazen about ‘Sex and Food’. While the Auckland quartet’s slinking brand of psychedelic soul has yielded some moments of real magic (not least on the lysergic-dappled swagger of 2015’s ‘Multi-Love’) a record of fully-fledged cohesion and vision has felt just a little out of reach. Until now. A slick trip bursting with earworming indie-funk bravura, ‘Sex & Food’ is an ironclad triumph.
Where the hazed-out strut of ‘Major League Chemicals’ reimagines CSNY at their most fuzzed-out, and ‘Hunnybee’ proves an early peak marrying quintessential summer festival “moment” via full-on, 1999-era Prince worship, snarling lead single ‘American Guilt’ conjures latter-day Zeppelin bombast and distils the aplomb that colours ‘Sex and Food’ through and through. Better still, in true UMO fashion, first-rate comedown vignettes such as ‘This Doomsday’ and ‘The Internet of Love (That Way)’ seal the deal.
“Living dead genre” album of the year thus far? Easily.