After over three years, I had almost given up banging on and on about the band from Nebraska with the weird name of UUVVWWZ. It had all gone quiet, certainly as far as news reaching these shores was concerned, and folk were severely doubting my prophecies of greatness that I assured would be bestowed upon the Saddle Creek signings.
In fact, it’s almost four years since their eponymous album release so captivated me with its quirky and unpredictable nature. Within that time, Dave Ozinga replaced Tom Ambroz on drums after the latter had moved to Australia, and the band spent two years apparently preparing for the release of ‘the trusted language‘ with all the songs being played in various styles to ascertain what would transfer best to live performances and what best suited a studio situation.
The band themselves have implied that the new album is more ‘grown up’ and mature sounding than their ‘screech-cronky, clubbier and babier’ earlier effort.
And that is certainly true – there is a massive difference in feel about ‘the trusted language.‘ There’s an altogether more ‘dark’ and heavy atmospheric to the newer material but thankfully there is still the sound that instantly defines UUVVWWZ, albeit more underlying than before. Key to this is the distinctive vocal delivery from Teal Gardner coupled with the rather individual guitar style of Jim Schroeder.
Opening track ‘No Apart,‘ rips in with sort of doom-laden guitar riffs that run throughout, offset by Teal’s bluesy vocals that veer off into shrieks at various points. Even at this early stage, you can tell this album has more ‘depth’ to it than the debut.
‘GRIPS,’ is a little nod back to the style of the 2009 album however. Teal’s voice trembles and yelps as the discordant guitar flits in and out over the top of the slack bass slaps. The time signature changes frequently and the song seems to pass through various ‘movements’ as would an old-style prog rock track.
‘Perfect House,’ is a little bit lounge-jazzy, surely with the potential of transferring to some kind cinematic adaptation, while ‘Broad Sky Blues,’ is a melancholic, rather introspective track. ‘Possible Project,‘ continues in the more downbeat mood for the initial third, picking up a little pace and higher range vocals as it progresses and the intensity level rises.
‘Open Sign,’ is my favourite. The pounding bass lines and floor toms give a real depth and tribal feel to the sound, while the buzz-saw guitar works beautifully in tandem with Teal’s more yelped delivery.
‘Charlotte’s List,‘ has a haunting lilt while the final, and title track ‘the trusted language,’ completes the album in a gentle blues style.
There’s no doubting that UUVVWWZ have moved on from their initial release. And yes you could indeed say this is a more cohesive and ‘mature,’ album. But much as they remain one of my favourite bands at this time and with so much more potential to develop, I’m just hoping they are not going to take themselves too seriously. For apart from the more jaunty ‘Open Sign,’ ‘the trusted language’ I think lacks the ‘fun’ and originality of their first album.
Still a great album – but …….
(‘the trusted language’ is available now – March 2013 – through Saddle Creek.)