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The UV Race - Racism

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Artist: The UV Race

Album: Racism

Label: In the Red

Review date: Jan. 23, 2013

Melbourne’s UV Race plays stunned, woozy post-punk that sounds like it has been bashed through the forehead with a tire iron, yet lurches on, half-conscious. Even the bangers – on this album “Nuclear Family” and the scatological “Raw Balls” – veer wildly around tight corners, and the slower songs (“Bad Egg,” for instance) have a half-raw gentleness to them, as if the band knows they’ve been badly wounded and must take care not to jostle them too hard.

Like Homo, Racism is hard to pin down. The band is part of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s scene, and like them, favors a stubborn simplicity in most of their songs. You can hear it in the band’s pick-dragging bass lines, its zombified four-four beats, its bull-headed insistence on the first rhyme that comes to mind – pig with jig, walking with talking, beach with reach.

Yet, even within the block simple confines of Tyvek-style garage punk, The UV Race shows a weird willingness to experiment. “Raw Balls,” their single-minded bathroom joke of a song, starts with more than half a minute of free-form guitar fuckery. “Memenome,” the album’s final cut, is unexpectedly space rock-ish, like an Eternal Tapestry jam slipped on to a Billy Childish record. It’s also hard to say whether the band has a damaged intelligence or an occasionally brilliant form of autism – or like Mark E. Smith, a little of both. “It seems we are too chill for punkers, too arty for the garage folk and too stupid for the indie crowd,” said Al Montfort, the UV Race’s guitarist, in an interview from about a year and a half ago on the HearPlug Blog.

This is, perhaps, a marketing issue, but it makes for an extremely interesting listen. “Be Your Self” lurches to life amid the rattle and claw of bass, its half-loaded, falling-forward vamp like an obscure Messthetics track. Yet even from there, the track veers off in unexpected directions, raising the ghost of 1960s garage pop in its double-clapped chorus, the specter of album-oriented radio in its big wah-wah filtered guitar solo. “I’m a Pig” embellishes straight-up-and-down punk stomp with manic piano banging and Chuck Berry-ish guitar riffs. It also allows the band to do something that all punk outfits should try – oinking like a pig. It comes off rather well, which is to say full of enthusiasm and without detectable irony.

In my review of Homo from 2011, I struggled with the issue of how smart UV Race was – and whether the stupid bits (the voices in “Inner North,” for instance) were sincerely dumb or having us on. I found myself thinking about these kinds of issues far less during Racism, which seems less arch and knowing, more straightforwardly communicative, than its predecessor. There’s a great deal of sympathy here for the characters in the songs, whether for the working stiff of “Life Park” who leaves his wife and kids or the soon to be ex-girlfriend in “Sophie Says” who urges her guy to sleep around while on tour and who brings a date to a gig. I hear a softness, a tenderness in these slack-rhythm’d tracks, as the band acknowledges the rough patches of life in a wry, realistic, forgiving way.

With Racism, UV Race continues to be one of the more contradictory, elusive and interesting of the current garage punk revival, balancing art and stupidity, gentleness and brutality, straight-on banging with sound experiments. I’m not sure even they know exactly what they’re doing and how much they mean it, but it’s fascinating for all of us to try to figure it out.

By Jennifer Kelly

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