Just over a year ago, a friend turned me on to Mike Golden & Friends–a rollicking crew from the greater Chicago area. I was blown away by the intensity and passion within each song I listened to, and had the chance to catch them live last winter.
After a brief break, MG&F hit Chicago’s House of Blues on 1/4, putting on an all-consuming, energetic, confetti-filled set to mark their return and the coming release of Utopia on 1/7. I first gave the album a casual listen, but upon a second trip through Utopia, a spotty narrative began to form as I envisioned the characters within each track.
Perhaps I’m completely off base in my interpretation of the album, but bear with me as we explore track by track the story that formed in my head: Utopia is the story of a broken pair. The first track, “Best Part”, is a guns blazing introduction of a protagonist who has observed changes within himself through a relationship that he has become exhausted by. He has lost sight of the joys.
The following track “Every Morning Love” wastes no time in getting to how the protagonist internalizes his fears and feelings about himself and his relationship. This is the scene in the movie when the guy is walking down the sidewalk, taking in the world around him and observing things that remind him of a love being held by a string.
As the title of the next song suggests, “Utopia” is a mid-tempo reflection on how the relationship was at its peak. This is also when the source of the demise is presented—the antagonist does not have faith in the protagonist. Perhaps she thinks he’s going nowhere in life.
“Hey Jane” is a funky response to the antagonists lack of faith and features fellow Chicagoans Vic Mensa and Donnie Trumpet. Smoking pot and the potential of quick, hot encounters with beautiful women are the vice of our protagonist.
“All Along” is the psychological hangover. “Why do I smoke so much weed? Why do I tease myself with other women? Why can’t I appreciate the one I’ve got? Maybe I should admit my flaws and she’ll accept me…”
“Your Face” sounds like a taste of the antagonist’s perspective, narrated by the protagonist. This is the scene in the movie when he is a ghost following her through the life she is now living without him.
We get the antagonist’s full perspective on “Little Bit,” as she is unsure whether or not to admit that she still thinks about him from time to time. This is the scene in the movie when the characters are on a split screen, tempted to reach back out to each other. This is also when we get our second oncoming revelation.
On “Pax et Bonum (Peace & Salvation),” our protagonist is finally smiling again, as he has accepted the past and present in anticipation of a brighter future.
“Tequilaco” carries an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and possibility, tinged by cynicism. He reflects on the lessons he learned and how he will carry them forward. “Yeah, let’s do this the right way this time!”
The final track “Cash Is King/Create Yourself” is our closing credit song. He is walking into the desert sunrise with his head held high, ready to finally make a name for himself.
For some older favorites, check out “Midwest Love”, “Pancakes And Beer”, and “Stay Here.” Utopia is currently available for free download on the band’s website, and tracks from this ‘narrative’ album will be featured on Thursday’s Diagnosis on WUSC from 12 p.m.-2 p.m. est.