SWAMP O DELIC - Bob Uhr And The Bare Bones (Green Cookie)
There's something to be said for DIY and the way technology has opened the way for nearly anyone to make their own record. Then something comes along like "Swamp O Delic" and you wonder if it's such a good thing.
Bob Uhr may have a solid garage background but surely sounds in need of some bandmates on this solo album, recorded over six months in his digs in New Orleans. Minimally equipped, with an acoustic guitar and a fuzzbox alternately as his stock in trade, he manages to render his own idiosyncratic version of the blues over the course of 15 faltering, often out-of-tune tracks.
There are two versions of the blues standard "Ramblin' Man" and only one of them is vaguely recognisable. "Black Black Widow" needs to get out of the house more.
"Zombie-Fied" is a tribute to one man's ability to multi-skill. Bob is actually playing three songs simultaneously. The problem is, that he's doing so in different time signatures.
I'm not sure is this is a disturbing record or just plain disturbed. Life's too short to ponder that one. - The Barman
HOODOO GARAGE – Bob Urh & The Bare Bones (Green Cookie)
What has Bob Urh been up to since we last heard him? Since he calls New Orleans home, it probably involves bailing water, rebuilding, foraging for food, or fighting off looters. Or, based on the sights and sounds of “Hoodoo Garage,” worshipping corn husk idols and fashioning carrion into jewelry.
One thing he’s not doing is resurrecting the Ultra 5, despite the contributions of drummer Greg Clarke and bassist Tara McMunn throughout and the sonics of album opener “Bad World Revisited,” which swings, staggers, and struts with as much skuzzy charm and dark-alley menace as anything that band ever laid down.
From there, however, things get infinitely more bewildering, Urh not only refusing to color within the lines, but declining to acknowledge the presence of the paper.
The atmospheric grime which coats “Hoodoo Garage” may be part and parcel of some insular insanity only Urh is able to comprehend, an often painful, sometimes entertaining oil and water mixture of swamp blues nurtured in shadows and free-form ju-ju freak-outs which probably shouldn’t be played during dinner.
Most of it sounds as if Urh is tuning up for an unplugged gig somewhere where daylight is banished and souls are bartered like baseball cards; call it solemn, sober, or grim, the only thing missing is a voice in the background calling out “dead man walking!” Wonder if he’s been tested for Cotard’s syndrome?
One exception is “Graveyard Shift,” an off-the-leash R&B mutation which borders on the remarkable, Urh finding a groove, fixing it with an evil stare, then stripping the flesh from its bones and tearing out its heart, all in the trepidant tenor of God pondering whom He might next consign to eternal damnation.
With the Bare Bones and “Hoodoo Garage,” Urh is, for the most part, making a break from his past with The Ultra 5 and their dumb but ridiculously entertaining brand of lysergic fuzztone fireworks, an open-and-shut case or wrong in this scribe’s mind, but I’m prone to living in the past so proceed with caution.
Your results may vary.- Clark Paull
DENIZENS OF DEMENTIA - The Ultra 5 (Green Cookie)
The Barman seems to get some sort of perverse kick out of sending me some of the most cheesy, dull-minded, and unbearable promos ever foisted on an unsuspecting public, most of them either from bands fronted by women (Motorama, Trouble Dolls, Bang Sugar Bang) or well-intentioned but ultimately clueless palookas (Jack Tragic & The Unfortunates, Dennis Most & The Instigators). Every so often he throws me a bone.
Despite forming in 1986, I have to confess I'd never heard of The Ultra 5 until "Denizens Of Dementia" landed in my mailbox along with a cable bill and coupons for permanent hair removal (at my age, I'm trying to grow hair, not get rid of it!) and vinyl siding. Along with three albums, the last appearing back in 1992, these New Yorkers have also released a handful of singles and their songs have been included on numerous garage compilations, tribute albums, and indie cassettes. For some reason,
they've been relatively quiet since 1996's "Back To The Savage Garden" EP.
Visually, at least, it's tempting to write The Ultra 5 off as Cramps disciples, worshipping at the stilettoed heels of Erick Purkhiser, Kirsty Wallace (that's Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach to you and me) and whoever's on bass and drums this week. Lead man Bob Urh looks like Interior between haircuts, drummer Ken Anderson is a dead ringer for Nick Knox, right down to his Raybans, and while bassist Tara McMunn may not possess the goddess incarnate aura of Rorschach, she's nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous, teen dream appeal in spades, a cheerleader gone over to the dark side, cruel to be kind in black leather, vinyl, and fishnets. For organist Ariane Root's part of the equation, read on.
The Ultra 5's reverence for the chemical imbalances that powered the earliest rock and roll, garage, rockabilly, and mutant R&B and coursed through its veins may not be not be as obsessive as that of The Cramps, but that's not to say it's any less authentic. "She's The Girl" throbs, oozes, and pulsates like the soundtrack from one of the drug scare films we laughed through back in the 70's in my suburban Detroit junior high school, Sonny and Cher warning against experimenting with dangerous hallucinogens and gateway drugs like pot. Problem was, our experiments had already concluded with a full thesis pending.
Make no mistake - The Ultra 5 is Urh and Root's chew toy, Urh dry humping his wah pedal and Root back in a dark corner rubbing her uh, organ, but "Denizens Of Dementia" isn't all cobwebs and eye of newt. "Fun" opens with the sound of a creaky door then unfolds into the type of swinging little party romp the Fleshtones would sacrifice a testicle for, Root's keyboards and the squawling harp work of Anderson spiking the punchbowl. Ditto "White Trash" and "Cherry Mash," both tailor made for doing the frug, monkey, or mashed potato next time you're tidying things up down in the torture chamber.
"Off The Hook" may just be the best Stones cover since, well, Joan Jett's enthusiastic, rip-snorting tear through "Star Star," Urh slobbering like he has a mouthful of Novocaine and Anderson, Root and McMunn making it swing, the ladies switching over to bass and guitar respectively.
For the most part, though, the Ultra 5's very reason for living appears to be keeping their subscription to "Famous Monsters of Filmland" current while simultaneously scaring the living shit out of parents, children, and small animals with flamethrowers from the pit of Hades like "Rock N Roll Doll," "Bones Walk," and "Mommy Wants To Rock," fuzz tone free with purchase. Dank, disturbing, delightful, or all of the above? If your idea of a party is fresh underwear, steer clear.
Although clunkers are thankfully kept to a minimum, when the Ultra 5 do unleash one, it's usually a doozy. The acoustic "Satans Angel," from the soundtrack of a documentary about doomed 50's pin-up Betty Page, is flat-out excruciating, calling to mind missed dental appointments and passed kidney stones. The acoustic version of "For You" sounds like a "Their Satanic Majesties Request" pooch, complete with bongos, an instrument which finshes a close second behind flutes on this scribe's list
of things which have absolutely no right appearing on a rock and roll album. But I'm funny like that. Your results may vary.
To the Ultra 5's credit, they embrace the fact that there can truly never be anything new in rock and roll ever again rather than kill themselves trying to re-invent the wheel - genius born of ignorance if you will - no apolgies offered and none needed. - Clark Paull
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