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The UV Race - Homo

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Artist: The UV Race

Album: Homo

Label: In the Red

Review date: Jun. 15, 2011

The UV Race, out of Melbourne, often gets lumped in with Eddy Current Suppression Ring, a band whose version of garage rock really does distill lust and alienation and boredom into protean simplicity. And while these two bands are connected by geography and friendship and professional collaboration (Mikey Young of ECSR recorded and mixed Homo), The UV Race is a good bit more complicated. Its squalls of conflicted noise may be anchored by blunt and brutal drumming, its stream-of-consciousness rants may seem unfiltered and unpremeditated, but there are snarled complications bristling out of every song. People who compare The UV Race to The Stooges or The Troggs or even (with all due respect) Eddy Current Suppression Ring are listening only so hard. Artists like The Fall or The Pop Group -- where intelligence pokes through paranoiac repetition, where experimental excess warps cadence and melody -- are better reference points.

Consider “Inner North,” a shambling garage banger, held to account by a boxy, no pretenses beat, but nevertheless, always reeling off into dissonant byways -- a wheedling keyboard line, a meandering thread of sax, a double guitar’d mania, both played high on the neck in rapid, detuned aggression. It’s a party anthem on the verge of interesting dissolution.

Moreover, that’s just the instruments. The vocals are straight up bipolar. On the one hand, an anchoring refrain of “I go …from my side of town…to see…you” could hardly be more shout-along pop. Yet intermittently, and weaving all through the song, you hear two voices muttering, declaiming and talking right over one another. They’re talking, as it turns out, about the Melbourne’s arty north suburbs, full of restaurants, clubs, bars and latte vendors with an enthusiasm that verges on parody. There are observations about the food, about “hanging out with all the Italians," and at one point, someone starts listing the main roads. The whole vocal interplay lends a schizophrenic edge to what is, otherwise, the disc’s most accessible cut. And, subtly, without ever saying anything negative, it conveys the idea of outsider status.

That, says Marcus in his song-by-song notes, is kind of the point. “They are quite arty/trendy areas. They are also very supportive of the live music scene,” he writes. “I guess I feel like it’s a mini-battle between the arty farty wankers and the rockn rollers. Melbourne is great for live music in general but it can be to [sic] arty sometimes with people competing to be the artyest. This song is about that mini-battle. All the soy lattes and café scene mixed with the Birmy, the old Bar and venues like that.”

So, “Inner North” is like a little novella, told by multiple unreliable first-person narrators and disguised as a garage band freakout. “Homo,” later on, goes it one better, stringing together a series of one-line character sketches like the most abbreviated short story collection, and uniting them under a common philosophy (i.e., we’re all homos, not in the homosexual sense, but rather as homosapiens). This is a band that is only pretending to be stupid or unreflective (as with brazen, dare-you-to-call-me-on-this use of rock clichés like “I walk down your street / My heart skips a beat” from “Down Your Street”). They know how to play the expected hand, but they are prone, in unguarded moments, to let odder, pricklier, more interesting things slip out.

Bottom line is, you can party to Homo. You can pump your fist and nod your head and spill beer all over the place. One at least some levels, the record is made for that, and losing yourself in the primitive aspects of Homo will almost surely be a lot of fun. But remember that if that’s all you do, you’re missing about half of it, the gnarlier, more conflicted and complicated half, and why would you want to do that?

By Jennifer Kelly

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