Maidstone Union Bar
This is small-town England, Saturday night, and as everyone knows, that’s alright for one thing only. Ultraviolence, yes. Ultrasound – pop music made by misfits this town regard as prey – most certainly not. And yet here they are. Maybe it’s because they’re mad, or masochists, or because – and this is what everyone desperately wants – they’re fiercely brave. Or maybe it’s just because this is keyboard player Matt Jones’ hometown and, in traditional style, his mum and dad are down tonight. “Along with their church buddies,” he declares cheerfully. “They’ve come to hear the devil’s music.”
Ironically, this music lacks satanic majesty – the massed forces of evil might be roaming outside, demons might prowl the songs, but this is not a band who are about to trample your heart contemptuously with their cloven hooves as they spit blood and bile. As sure as Mo Tucker, Black Francis or Jarvis Cocker, they show a blatant disregard for those rock’n’roll principles of youth and beauty and outrage, ending up more startlingly rebellious than a million cocaine nosejobs could ever hope to be in cynical old 1998. When bassist Vanessa flings her head back like she’s onstage at Knebworth, leaning against Tiny like they’re Rossi and Parfitt, a whole new attitude falls from the skies. When guitarist Richard Green smiles quietly as he makes some noise, or Tiny shuts his eyes and swoons into ‘Over There’, it’s as if they were the ones in the front row, lost in the music, lost in the moment.
“We’re in the same band”, is no empty claim – people talk of The Verve or Oasis being “like us”, but rather than hammer home the similarities, Ultrasound let the differences flare up. Never mind the rest of the planet, they don’t look like they’re in the same band as each other – Matt and Richard looking like escapees from the pernicious cult of Kula Shaker, Vanessa poised in what might be – squint hard – riot grrrl chic, with Tiny supplying the glitz and glamour, rolling his eyes like a medieval saint who stole Brian Molko’s hair in the night.
Sometimes, even sounding like they’re in the same band is a stretch. They treat every song like a finale, a pyrotechnic smash of drum rolls and guitar debris, Vanessa’s voice demanding red velvet curtains even as ‘Stay Young’ and ‘Suckle’ crash and burn like Suede hijacking Queen’s Lear jet. The terrible thing is, they deserve stardom so much, it’s hard to admit that not every song kicks clichi with the same abandon they kick expectation in the groin. It would be nice to think that ‘Floodlit World’ could be a metaphor for their development – sure, it starts with a standard indie rattle so commonplace you could order it with fries at McDonald’s, yet soon it’s unleashing a glorious chorus that flash-floods tears all over front rows. Hopefully, this threshold won’t hold them. Here’s to the new rock’n’role models.