The Ugly Beats – Take A Stand

We’re two years on since the release of their debut album, Bring On The Beats!. And this quintet of four lads and one lass lets you know what milepost they’ve just passed with a cover design mimicking the Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man LP. The sound is still on the lower-fi side of the scale — hear those cardboardy drums.

But the bottom has thickened up a bit, while maintaining a light touch on the outboard gear (no drenching digital reverb and gates), and though a bit wobbly they’re bringing more harmonies to this shindig. The songwriting and arranging has tightened up (even with a song under three minutes there was on occasion last album when it seemed it was going on too long) and passes the covers the test: where none of the three covers included here stick out like sore thumbs from amongst the nine originals.

Actually their cover of the Remains’ Let Me Through is the one number (just edging out Light Comes On) most like the material on that first platter where the guitars join in on the grinding Garage-Rock rhythm. Elsewhere there is much more jangly picking & riffing. Just take a look at the lead-off track Take a Stand.

Even when the organ, bass and drums are loopin’ away the lead guitar keeps its head above with its clarion, and when the second guitar rises up for its fuzzed out solo it’s hitting the melody. Meanwhile the lead vocal is right upfront, unadorned with snippets of shouted backing vocals to pump up the choruses and some sweet backing “aaaahh”s in the bridge. The shouts pick up frequency and intensity as the outro progress driving the tune through the end.

Million Dollar Man is a mid-tempo, post-Mersey Beat plaint with a full compliment of harmonies over a familiar, winsome melody carried by gentle picked guitar and lead vocal. An interesting touch is when the harmonies go into repeating the title phrase they find themselves doing battle with a dense cymbal wash which builds a nice tension that finds release on the closing three notes of vocal harmony.

Get In Line is a spare duet with one of the lads (I’m not really sure if there is only one lead singer, or there’s a rotation amongst a couple of them) and the lass (and organist), Jeanie, with just some wood percussion and acoustic guitar backing. It’s oh so pretty yet plaintive.

Hmmm, there seems to me to be something about the early Long Ryders (10-5-60) in this current sound. In the call-and-response vocal of I’m Gonna Break Here Heart; in the rhythm play of Last Stop (which also has a little tinkle of Del Shannon-style Musitron from the organ popping up its head); in the vocal phrasing of the verses in Your Turn To Cry.

Regarding the other covers mentioned at the top: One is a pretty straight run through of a Ventures’ instrumental, Action Plus. With the twist being alternate verses are fronted by organ with a weird half-Farfisa, half-Musitron sound, instead of guitar. The other only reaches as far back as 1980, a gender-switching redo of Nikki and the Corvettes’ You’re The One. A very curious choice; but fun.

The Ugly Beats are the kind of band you’ll find at least one of in just about every burg these days: working their own little niche of retroactivity not always with extreme proficiency, but with adoration and gumption. Some will make you down your beer and head out the door, others will have you spilling that beer as you careen around what passes for a dance floor. I have faith that if the Ugly Beats ever came to my town you’d find me out on the parquet.

[Released by Get Hip 2007]

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