When Jim James, the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, learned that his band wouldn’t be recording an album as Muppets, he’d already written several new songs. His band had been tasked with writing as if they were the Muppets’ Electric Mayhem band — fitting, since several members of My Morning Jacket closely resemble Animal. But when Disney thought better of the album, James claimed the songs for his own record. One of those songs was “Wonderful.” It was the best track on Circuital.
There’s a reason that, when James tried to write as a Muppet, he came up with his best recent work. While the Muppets’ influence on American culture runs deep in puppetry and children’s television, it arguably runs deepest in American music. It sounds insane to say it, but the Muppets and their Electric Mayhem Band are some of the last great American musicians.
The group itself represents a vibrant strain of American music that’s been absent of late: the weird, anarchic strain found in old blues, folk and rock. It’s the swampy American sound of Dylan and The Band’s basement tapes, the druggy jams of the Grateful Dead, the caustic humor of Randy Newman and the honky tonk of Jimmy Dean in a time capsule. As American popular music became homogenized in sound and subject, the Muppets and the Electric Mayhem Band only became weirder.
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