Praying for the best, Umphrey’s only delivers “Mantis”

A few years ago, in the aftermath of Phish’s break-up, Umphrey’s McGee was touted by Rolling Stone as the heir to Trey and company’s vacated throne. It’s now 2009 and Phish is back – so where does that leave the kings-to-be?Their newest release, “Mantis,” indicates Umphrey’s McGee is spinning their wheels in an attempt to sound huge and impressive without actually saying anything worth hearing; the same place they were in as a relatively unheard-of band five years ago.It’s certainly not that guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger aren’t talented. They can play with speed and intensity – this isn’t an album of fist-pumping power chords.The prog-rock twists and turns Umphrey’s fans love are present and accounted for, especially on mid-album up-tempo vehicle, is track “Red Tape.”The band’s flaws arise when they attempt to sound sweeping, or worse, profound. Halfway through the song, “Red Tape” begins to sound like a Rush throwaway track with too much synth.The 11 minute long title track devolves from pseudo-philosophical lyrics (“So what’s you’re point?/who’s the next you will anoint?/there’s no where to transcend to/if we’ve got no ears to lend you”) into an extended space section – spacey more in its lack of substance than in any psychedelic or minimalist sense.The fact of the matter is that even in its best moments (for instance, the light, piano driven intro to the album – which happens to be one of the least guitar laden portions of the disc), “Mantis” lacks the cohesion of Yes, the playfulness of Phish and the satirical wisdom of Zappa.Umphrey’s does not, and seemingly cannot, live up to their progressive rock forefathers – there is simply too little progressive about them.