- by Steve Rhodes Rating:9 Release Date:2016-09-02 Label: Rocket Girl
During the hedonistic cheery self-congratulating era of Britpop existed a parallel world of acts who rather than took their cues from apples-and-pears smugness or mod and Merseybeat re-hashes, looked to experimentation and using their guitars to aurally assault their listeners. Instead of Camden's The Good Mixer being the centre of the universe, these acts looked further afield to the trebly guitars of 80s New Zealand, avant-garde experimentalism of Europe, but especially to the noise abandon of US acts such as Pavement, Sonic Youth and Sebadoh.
Along with other UK like-minded sonic adventurers Magoo, Telstar Ponies and Prolapse, Glasgow's Urusei Yatsura appeared in the mid-90s as a breath of abrasive fresh air, with three LPs and a plethora of a single releases on small labels, one of which even managed to sneak into the UK Top 40 singles chart. A favourite of John Peel, the band recorded a number of sessions across the BBC radio network, of which 11 tracks are compiled here on You Are My Urusei Yatsura by the always excellent Rocket Girl label, a superb compilation which captures the rawkous energy of Urusei Yatsura at their very best.
Early single 'Plastic Ashtray' leads proceedings. The unhinged twin sonic guitar assault of Fergus Lawrie and Graham Kemp are kept just about in check by the thunderous and rolling rhythm section backing of siblings Elaine and Ian Graham. A chaotically fuzzy track that constantly teeters on the edge of collapse which excels in its session form.
'First Day on a Brand New Planet' is almost saccharine in comparison to the frenetic opener. Lo-Fi guitar and noise still holds firm, with nods to early The Wedding Present, but the melodies are more conventional and at the fore of the track, with plenty of singalong “na na na” and “do do do” moments. This is shared by their big hit 'Hello Tiger', which still has scratchy moments but is noddingly infectious at the same time.
The band seem torn between their pop sensibilities and their sonic racket and this prevails throughout all the tracks, none moreso than with 'Kewpies of Watermelon'. Immediate attention is drawn from the off as Fergus launches an unexpected roar as the track settles down into a motorik formation as guitars are politely strummed at times, before the amps are re-awakened along with the return of Fergus' roar. 'Exidor' dabbles in The Dead C abstact noise and Lee Ranaldo de-tunings but has the deepful tuneful chrous of “two hearts for Exidor, two hearts for evermore, two hearts for Exidor, two hearts for stereo” as a nice counterpoint. 'Slain By Elf' has hooks aplenty and a vibe which Idlewild will appropriate wholesale but the title is sung so dementedly manic it feels completely at odds but yet fits so perfectly.
'No No Girl' and 'Siamese' could not be more opposite. With the former such a relaxing song that could easily fit with Crooked Rain Crooked Rain's best tracks and the latter an adrenaline rush of shrieking chainsaw-guitars, 100mph drums and unintelligible lyrics and as catchy as hell.
Neatly demonstrated on the compilation is Urusei Yatsura's leadership of outsider geek indie, with their name taken from a Japanese manga comic series, references to superpowers in 'Dice Nae Dice' and especially with their sci-fi anthem to the disaffected 'Phasers on Stun'. A rollercoaster of hypnotic guitar shrills and squalling feedback, with notes to “I met a girl at the comic convention” and their glorious Trekkie video to accompany the single . At just two minutes the song buries itself into your brain then leaves abruptly but lingers in the consciousness for all eternity.
You Are My Urusei Yatsura is a timely reminder of how formidable a talent Urusei Yatsura were, with their rougher-edge session versions leaning closer to their explosive live sound, doing them more justice than a simple singles compilation could. Their legacy continues to live on not only in their Project A-Ko spin-off but in acts such as McLusky, Yuck and closer to home with recent releases from Scotland's Pinact and Garden of Elks. Now how about a reunion?
Great review Steve. I really liked this band. It's a pity they never got the recognition they richly deserved