[a]Ultrasound[/a] remain a thrilling, vital live band; the songs are the same but they never lose their potency when they have the personality of the band to bolster them...

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Finally

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Finally

They know it, those boys in the front row, gawping at the mass of pendulous flesh overhanging Tiny’s waistband. The clue to [a]Ultrasound[/a]’s greatness, to their sheer enormousness, isn’t in mile-high crescendos and heaving seven-minute prog yawns, even those that quake with the virulent roar of harnessed thunder. No, the magic’s in the details.

It’s in the frontman’s preposterous circumference, the pop-puppy glitter on his eyelids and crimson lipstick on his lips, the upside-down smiley face badge on his guitar strap. It’s in the moment bassist Vanessa‘s body forms an inverted ‘U’ while she shakes her hair furiously like an agile ’70s porn star, or in the way Richard Green – in Sta-Prest and green eye shadow – demolishes his guitar after only two songs.

The bigger picture isn’t always so good. [a]Ultrasound[/a]’s debut album, ‘Everything Picture’, has been so long-awaited that it was nearly forgotten. Now it finally emerges, overlong, overblown and overproduced. Even those demos and singles that once rang so seminal – ‘Stay Young’, ‘Same Band’, ‘Suckle’ – sound laboured, their spark fanned out rather than into flame. The misfit dreamers we desperately wanted to believe in two years ago, the starry-eyed crazies we hoped would lead us out of the post-Britpop doldrums, seem to have taken it all too seriously, bloated on their own fantasies.

Yet [a]Ultrasound[/a] remain a thrilling, vital live band; the songs are the same but they never lose their potency when they have the personality of the band to bolster them. So tonight the question that weighs more heavily than the spectre of Tiny in chain mail seems to be: is that enough?

They are spectacular: impassioned, seismic, bizarrely compelling. They reel through the rarely played B-side ‘Kurt Russell’ with pop-visionary zest; they sling out the anthemic ‘Stay Young’ with gasping euphoria – everything (save ‘My Impossible Dream’, which has all of the bluster but none of the tune) bristles with electricity and promise. That same promise, from so long ago, still unfulfilled.

It’s perhaps best to forget everything you’ve read about [a]Ultrasound[/a]: the hype, the expectations, the hyperbole. Focus instead on the details: Richard, immaculate save for a missed belt-loop, convulsing impossibly; Vanessa, on her knees, sneering in the half-light like a cornered murderess; and Tiny, whispering, [I]”Nothing fills a hole…”[/I] with despairing intensity, then taking a swig from a jumbo-sized carton of Ribena. Minute, magical details that suggest [a]Ultrasound[/a] may yet come through.

They are freaks believing themselves stars, and heaven knows they’ve got what it takes. Let’s just hope they’re not dead and gone before they find out how it works.