A confused, uncertain but intriguing debut.
Jaime Gill 2009-09-11
Given how eager to please so many new bands are, UUVVWWZ’s bloody-mindedness is an asset. As if that nails-down-blackboard band name weren’t handicap enough, the Nebraskan quartet also vowed to release the first nine songs they wrote, no matter how they turned out. Perhaps predictably, the resulting album sees the band flit between musical styles with the fever of a valley girl hunting for her first prom dress: few fit perfectly, some are plain ugly, but just occasionally they dazzle.
A lot of this nervous energy is generated by frontwoman Teal Gardner, with her agitated vocals, off-kilter phrasing and scattershot lyrics. When the band try to sound as hyperactive as her, the results are mixed. Jap Dad has some of the yelping, bubblegum fizz of 1999-era Prince, while Green Starred Sleeve borrows the creaking, ramshackle energy of Deerhoof: both are derivative but enjoyable. Trapezeus, on the other hand, is a scrambling, incompetent mess, as contrived and irritating as the Wacky Races theme covered by Bis.
The band are more successful when they restrain themselves and their singer. Opener Berry Can is hypnotic, with Gardner singing a seductive nursery rhyme melody, before the talented Jim Schroeder lets loose a shredding riff which knocks the song brilliantly off balance. Schroeder then proves his versatility on the dirty blues of Neolano, with its rustling guitars and spooked, narcotic Angelo Badalamenti atmosphere. Sadly, Gardner’s melody is too insubstantial to match his efforts.
By far the best song is the one where the band fuse their moody and their manic sides and, for the first time, sound like nobody but themselves. Castle’s verses are built from a shuffling beat, languid slide guitar and dreamy Gardner vocal, before lurching into spiky-guitared, frantically-sung choruses. Its combination of heavy-eyed sleepiness and bug-eyed hysteria barely works, but it does and is both wrong-footing and thrilling.
It’s this song in particular that makes you hope UUVVWWZ have bought themselves some time with this confused, uncertain but intriguing debut; enough time to deliver the better, more fully realised second album they surely have in them.