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Vinyl, July 7, 2009
Pronounced "double u, double v, double w, zee". They've been compared to Captain Beefheart, Deerhoof, Dog Faced Hermans, and Lydia Lunch. Attempts at categorization soon followed, for better (avant-rock and blues) or worse (power-jazz). One thing is certain, UUVVWWZ is a rare bird.
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So yes, the big question: What is UUVVWWZ all about? Judging by the sound of their debut album, it seems as though they are still working that out. They certainly have an aesthetic in mind: Loose yet tense, arty yet accessible, epic but not ponderous. The nine songs on the record happen to be the group's first nine completed compositions, and so while many of the tracks have the thrilling buzz of inspiration and discovery, it is also apparent that they're casting about in search of an identity. This is not to say that the songs lack character. The band's best asset is Teal Gardner, a singer blessed with a strong, distinct voice that's compelling even when it comes too close to emulating other vocalists. This is most evident on the album's spazzy rockers, which have the manic chirpiness of Deerhoof and Ponytail, but also the more populist tunefulness of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs. "Jap Dad" is the best of these songs, but as much as that number is charmingly bratty, it comes off more like the band are having a good time than being entirely themselves.
The quieter tracks on the record feel much more natural and relaxed. The opener, "Berry Can", shifts between a sweet, girlish vocal from Gardner and a dark, menacing riff that breaks into the song like an unexpected thunderstorm on an otherwise sunny afternoon. "Neolaño" and "The Sun" flirt with outright bluesiness, which encourages Gardner to play up the more bold and womanly aspects of her voice. "Castle", the album's centerpiece and best song, falls perfectly at the center of the group's aesthetic spectrum. As the music floats between moments of dreaminess, turbulence, and catharsis, Gardner's performance is similarly mercurial. For the most part, her emoting matches the sound of the band, but her inflections and cadences are often surprising and vaguely counter-intuitive. She is a revelation on this track, seamlessly transitioning between fragility and intensity, and investing her entirely inscrutable lyrics with a convincing urgency. The band would be wise to continue on the path laid out by this song. Clearly, this is Gardner at her most confident and affecting, but it's also the band's most dynamic moment, and allows them to move between a lovely, unapologetically pretty groove and an appealing heaviness. There are plenty of signs that UUVVWWZ are on track to become a better band, but "Castle" is the song that will make you impatient for them to hurry up and get to their next level right away.
-- Matthew Perpetua, July 1, 2009
by Jason Lymangrover
Specializing in no-wave flavored indie rock, UUVVWWZ's name originated when they tried to map out the phrasing of one of their songs by jotting down notes on a brown paper bag. Followers of music theory will recognize right away that UUVVWWZ isn't a typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure, and while many of the group's songs aren't quite as unusual as that string of letters seems (most of them do, in fact, incorporate choruses), the group steers pretty far from the norm on their self-titled record. The musicianship is stripped down and deconstructed, with close attention paid to negative space. Sometimes this instrumentation, or lack thereof, verges on messy, but never to the point of feeling unfocused or falling apart. Tom Ambroz lays down jagged beats that are more about the time signature than power; Jim Schroeder can shred hard by way of dissonant, zig-zagging guitar runs between chunky guitar chords, but he often chooses to dumb down his abilities by playing single notes; and Dustin Wilbourn plays the backbone role, trying to hold it all together by mirroring the guitar work or by playing tasteful, in-the-pocket bass riffs. The real star of the show, like it or not, is the prominently mixed Teal Gardner, who either shrieks like a banshee or sings in a sultry Chan Marshall style. When she opts for the second method, she tends to go for tricky notes, sometimes hitting them and sometimes waivering around them, making her voice an acquired taste. Similarly, her lyrics are intelligible, but they're not easily decipherable. Even though English is her first language, it might not be so clear when she sings infantile lines straight-faced, like "Honey call me when you want to talk/And we can talk hard/All work can be fun/Fun to work hon/Got to be on!/I like to be on!" and the barbaric battle cry "Have want!/Have need!/Have want!/Now be!" There's definitely a J-pop influence present, particularly in the excellent Melt Banana tribute "Jap Dad," where Gardner titters Morse code jibberish over a crazy descending guitar and bass scale before squealing the hook "M.A.K.E.M.E.L.O.V.E.Y.O.U!" These wilder songs, along with "Shark Suit" and the fierce "Trapezeus," show that UUVVWWZ is a unique force in the indie world, and the sweet, soothing moments of "Neolaño" and "The Sun" prove that they're just as good when they show restraint and mellow out. There's a fine line between simplicity and chaos.
2. Shark Suit 6/10
3. Jap Dad 5/10
4. Neolaño 5/10
5. Castle 4/10
6. Green Starred Sleeve 3/10
7. Trapezeus 4/10
8. The Sun 4/10
9. Hum Jam 6/10
UUVVWWZ are an Experimental, Female Fronted, Post-Punk band that at times can sound Jazzy, bluesy, or generally unclassifiable. They are from Lincoln, NE.
I like to listen to a release at least three times before I post it as a review. Some releases take more than 3 listens to fully digest, and some are so good that I end up listening to them more because I just do not get a chance to review the CD quickly enough. Every now and again you come across a CD that it is a challenge to listen three times. UUVVWWZ's S/T CD is one of those CDs. It starts out pretty solid. Berry Can is a good song. Shark Suit is above average, but once you reach Jap Dad you notice that UUVVWWZ has Spastic even annoying tendencies. The CD begins to go down hill fast. Neolaño is pointlessly long, and resembles a poor imitation of The Doors meets early Zeppelin. Castle is annoying and too long. Green Starred Sleeve is the worst song on the CD. The guitar work seems to be purposefully irritating and the vocals sound like meandering pretentiousness. Trapezeus is an attempt at rock and roll, but again the vocals KILL anything that might be considered redeeming. Finally, The Sun is irritating and Hum Jam shows that the band is capable of better work than they put forth on the rest of the CD.
The Major problem with UUVVWWZ is the vocals. Teal Gardner, the lead singer, refuses to control her voice. She needs to understand her vocal limitations and work within them. Unlike some artists, that she most probably idolizes, when she pushes herself beyond them the results are not appealing. If this band could reel themselves in they could probably put together a solid rock CD.
The song by song review is 49%, but when you factor in how inconsistent and annoying the CD is overall the review comes to 41%..
Similar Artists/Influences- Sonic Youth, Portugal The Man, Beep Beep, Broken Spindles, Pylon, Deerhoof, Opium Taylor, The Lepers, The Birthday Party, Captain Beefheart, Make Believe, Friend/Enemy, Blatz, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane