Trying to get back in the groove of writing, here come the U's! The U's were short and sweet, featuring only three hours of music, fifty four songs, and ten artists. If you've read any other posts in this blog you know that this means that this blog post will be short and sweet. The U's weren't particularly great for me, there were a lot of artists who I kind of like but not really one that I'm a big on. The U's were easy to get through, I listened to most of them while cleaning my apartment. With that brief introduction over, lets hop into the U's.
First up are worldwide Superstars U2. U2 are an Irish rock band based out of Dublin. The band came together in 1976 when four high school classmates formed a band, the four barely knew how to play their instruments, but within four years had become proficient enough to be signed to Major label Island Records. Their 1980 debut Boy made the group an International act, allowing the band to tour the world. For most of their first decade they were more successful as a live act than as an album selling artist. Their breakthrough came with the release of 1987's Achtung Baby. The album was hailed as a revelation and launched the band into international superstardom. The band spent the 90's experimenting with different musical styles, incorporating industrial, dance, and alternative rock. The band's fame faded a bit as they experimented, but the flame was reignited at the beginning of the 00's. The band focused more on the alternative rock side of their musical experimentation, going for big arena rock hooks and catchy choruses. The band is currently one of the biggest rock bands in the world with the names Bono and The Edge well known around the rock world. The band has employed various styles in their sound over the years, but the sound they've become known for is their Arena Rock. Their songs feature big hooks and catchy lyrics that are easy to sing along to. The band's lyrics are often spiritual and socially conscious. The band is well known for their philanthropic work, especially that of lead singer Bono. I first heard of U2 in the 90's, I would hear a song here and there on Rock radio. The band really came to the forefront of my recognition scale in the 2000's when their popularity soared again. I find U2 enjoyable, but I don't consider them much more than that. I'm not a huge fan of the big hook Arena Rock style. I don't mind listening to U2 casually, but I can't ever see myself getting deeper than that.
Following U2 is a song from Uffie. Uffie is an electronic musician based in Paris, France. Uffie was born in Miami but raised in Hong Kong for her early childhood. She came back to Miami when she was 15, but was arrested for vandalism and sent to Paris to live with her father. After a few years in Paris she met DJ Feadz and began a relationship with him, he convinced her to provide vocals on one of his tracks in 2005 and she began developing an interest in making music. Later in 2005 she wrote and recorded the song "Pop The Glock." She posted the song to MySpace and was noticed by an indie label, who released the song as a single. The song "Ready To Uff" (featured on this playlist) was featured as the B-Side. Uffie has gained recognition in the French Electronic DJ scene and is often cited as a muse for many DJ's. She even got nominated onto many best of the year lists in 2005. The music featured here is a start stop beat mixed with world music elements and featuring Uffie rapping. The rapping tends to break up with repeated loops of certain words. I first heard of Uffie when my older brother put this song on the Mp3 CD he gave me. I enjoyed the song, it's a fun song. It's not something I'll listen to often or explore much further but it's fun.
Next up is a song from the band UIC. UIC were a Canadian Garage Rock band from Exeter, Ontario who came together in 1982. The band started when two brothers who had been playing together for a few years formed a band with two friends. The group drew its influence from bands they heard on FM radio from Detroit. They realized that they could play just as well as bands like The Ramones, so that's the style of music they began playing. The band played around Canada and released five albums before breaking up in 1995. The band was featured on several compilations featuring Canadian punk artists, but were never really known outside of Canada. The band's music is simple straight forward garage rock, simple bar and power chords. There's definitely some Stooges influence in the music as well. I first heard UIC around 2005 when my brother gave me the previously mentioned Mp3 CD. I didn't remember this song before hearing it again for this blog, and I'm not particularly surprised. It's not particularly distinctive, it's just your typical garage rock song. This isn't particularly memorable, and I will not be exploring further.
After UIC is a song from the band U.K. Subs. The U.K. Subs are a British Punk Rock band who began performing in 1976. The band was part of the initial British Punk Rock movement that included bands like The Sex Pistols. The band gained popularity as Punk began to gain popularity in England. The band scored a few Top 40 hits, including the song featured here "Stranglehold." The band's sound shifted in the 1980's when the line up was shuffled. The band began to play a heavier sound closer to Metal. The band has released twenty four albums to date, each subsequent album is named alphabetically. I first heard of the U.K. Subs back around 2005 when I first started exploring punk rock. They were mentioned frequently in discussions about punk. Then my older brother gave me this song on the Mp3 he made for me. I do recall this song from my first several listens, I was getting into punk at the time and this was a good song. I still like this song, it's a great example of early English Punk. The attitude, the edge, and the simplicity of the movement. I might look further into this band.
Coming after U.K. Subs are two songs from Ultravox. Ultravox were a British Punk/New Wave band who came together as Ultravox in 1976. The band went through several name changes before settling on Ultravox in 1976, just a few months before their debut album was released on Island Records the same year. The group started out as a punk rock group, but quickly began moving towards their New Wave sound. Their third album was the first to feature heavy New Wave sounds, but failed to chart. The band failed to achieve any success with their first three albums, and were dropped by Island records in 1978. The band self financed a US tour in 1979, but the tour was a disaster and resulted in the band breaking up, and lead singer John Foxx left to pursue a solo career. The band would reform the next year with a new lead singer in Midge Ure, Ure would also take over the role of guitarist and keyboards. With Ure at the helm the band released their 1980 album Vienna (who's title track is one of the two featured songs), the album featured a very Synth heavy glam rock style, the album eventually went to number two on the U.K. charts and featured several charting singles. The band achieved a string of successful albums before starting to decline in 1987. The next year the band broke up and members went on to new projects. The two songs featured here "Vienna" and "Saturday Night In The City Of The Dead," are very different in styles. Vienna is very dramatic/theatrical with heavy synth and programmed drum beats. "Saturday Night In The City Of The Dead" is much more punk sounding, and was released on their 1976 debut. I like both songs, but I find "Vienna" more interesting. "Vienna" is very theatrical and I think that's what I like best about it. "Saturday Night In The City Of The Dead" is a good 70's punk song, and pretty catchy too. Ultravox is an interesting group that I wouldn't mind hearing more of, but it would probably be the lineup featuring Midge Ure.
Uncle Tupelo is up next on the playlist. Uncle Tupelo were an Alternative Country band that was active between 1987 and 1994. The band played a brand of Alternative rock with a country twang mixed in. Uncle Tupelo formed in Bellville, Illinois in 1987 by founding members Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Mike Heidorn. The band quickly distanced themselves from the traditional Country music scene, drawing influences from punk bands like The Minutemen as well as traditional Country artists like Hank Williams. The group started while all the members were in High School, going through two iterations before the three formed Uncle Tupelo in 1987. The band played locally for three years before signing to an independent record contract, releasing their debut album in 1990. The band gained attention after a Rolling Stone article chronicled them as artists to watch, and their 1992 sophomore effort gained them their major label contract. The album was more heavily country at a time when the Alternative Music scene was taking off, this was done as an intentional middle finger to the movement. The band released their major label debut Anodyne in 1994. The major label contract saw the group expanding to a five person group, and Jeff Tweedy taking more of the songwriting and singing duties away from Jay Farrar. Farrar wasn't happy with Tweedy taking over and the two began to fight constantly, and it eventually led the band breaking up right as Anodyne was released. The band did a farewell tour as a favor to their manager and then called it quits. Jeff Tweedy immeaditely formed the band Wilco with the other members of Uncle Tupelo and Farrar formed the band Son Volt. The album featured on this album is the Major Label debut Anodyne, which was given to me by my brother Charlie. I hadn't listened to the band before he gave me the album, and wasn't at all familiar with the band. I knew Jeff Tweedy's band Wilco, but not his work before that. I didn't listen to the album much before listening to it for this post, it's a little outside my usual taste. I enjoy country music occasionally, it's just not my main genre of listening. I enjoy a lot of older country music, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, ect., and there is a lot of country influence in this music. It just didn't strike a chord with me in either direction on the hate/love scale. It's enjoyable enough, but nothing particularly special for me. If I was in a country mood this wouldn't be a bad edition to the playlist, but it wouldn't be at the top of my list. I much more enjoy Tweedy's work in Wilco.
Uncle Tupelo "Chickamauga"
Next up is The Undertones, an Irish Pop Punk/ New Wave band. The group formed by High School friends in 1975 started as a cover band, playing covers of their favorite bands like The Beatles. When the Punk Rock movement exploded in 1976 the band began to incorporate influences from bands like The Buzzcocks and The Adverts. The group frequently played a local club for the next few years, interspersing original material with their usual covers. The band developed it's sound into a Poppy version of the three chord style used in punk rock. In 1978 they released their debut EP Teenage Kicks, the EP got radio play and got the band signed to Sire Records. The band released their debut album, and toured the UK. As the band went on they continued to evolve their sound, and by the time they broke up in 1983 they were incorporating Motown influences into their Pop Punk. The band broke up in 1983 from a mixture of internal tensions and increased pressure from their record label. I've been vaguely aware of The Undertones since I started getting into punk rock back around 2003-2004. The band is a favorite with a lot of Old School Punk fans. The song I'm most familiar with is the debut single "Teenage Kicks." It's a song I've heard quite a bit of over the years, and one I enjoy quite a bit. It's a fun up-tempo pop punk song about adolescence, and relationships. I haven't looked up much more of The Undertones' back catalogue, but I wouldn't mind getting deeper into it.
A one and done from the Boston band The Unseen. The Unseen are a Boston Pop Punk band formed in 1993, the band was formed as an attempt to revive the Street Punk style that had become popular in the UK in the 80's. The band played loud and fast with a political message, a message prevalent in their first releases but softened upon the departure of founding member Paul Russo. The band has been shunned by the more hardcore punk fans for shooting videos and making songs that could play on music television. The band is still active, and the article I read on them doesn't say much more. The song comes from the Rock Against Bush: Vol. 2, and it's your typical pop punk song. It's got a bit of a hardcore edge to it, but it's your standard pop punk sound found from bands that frequent the Vans Warped Tour. It's not a bad song, but it's not special either.
As we near the end of the U's, The Used come next. The Used are an Alternative Rock band from Utah commonly associated with the "emo" movement of the early 2000's. The band formed around its instrumentally inclined members in 2001, adding lead singer Bert McCracken after failing to find a viable lead singer during an audition process. McCracken wrote lyrics for the music the other members had already written, and the band recorded a demo. The demo minimal attention, but eventually got them signed to Reprise Records. The band released their self titled debut the next year, to critical acclaim. The album eventually went Gold. The band released the2004 follow up album In Love and Death, the album also went Gold. The band continues to record and tour, releasing four more albums to date. The band's lyrics tended to focus on death, loss, and relationships. I enjoyed The Used when they first came out, when I was fourteen. They appealed to the angsty teenager in me. Thirteen years later I don't enjoy them like I did back then. I still enjoy their debut album more than their second album, which is part of the reason I stopped paying attention to them. Their debut is a lot more consistent in its sound and quality. Their second album feels all over the place, like they couldn't decide what sound they wanted to put forward. McCracken's voice on the slower "emotional" songs reminds me a lot of Jimmy Eat World, but their louder songs clash with that vibe. I don't see myself listening to The Used with any type of frequency, I just don't enjoy them the way I did fourteen years ago.
The Used "The Taste of Ink"
Finally we have Useless ID, the first band on this list from Israel. The band formed in 1994 and eventually gained enough popularity in Israel to fund a tour in the USA in 1996. The band returned from their successful tour and replaced their founding bassist with new member Yotam Ben-Horin. In 1999 they gained some moderate international success after being invited to be a part of a split album with popular band The Ataris. The album got them signed to Kung Fu Records in 2001, and Ben-Horin took over vocals. The band would then appear on several compilation CD's for Fat Wreck Chords, including Rock Against Bush: Vol. 2, which is where the song on this playlist comes from. I wasn't at all aware of this band before hearing this song on the compilation. This song isn't particularly memorable, it's your standard Fat Wreck style, melodic choruses and fast simple chord progressions. It's nothing special.
That's it, after two years the U's are finally finished. I'm not sure why it took me two years, lack of motivation to write the sprawling long winded posts I suppose. I'm not happy that I never finished this project, so I'm trying to rectify that. I want to finish all the letters and then add to the letters already reviewed with any bands that have been added since they were written.