Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Ugly Beats: Take A Stand

The Ugly Beats

Take a Stand
Get Hip Recordings

The Ugly Beats are best known for their high energy, retro styled surf/garage music that has earned devoted fans worldwide. That's a great compliment that many would be too happy to have that title. On Take a Stand, they take that standard and stretch their artistic muscle, attempting to blend other styles. The result is pure Ugly Beats.

This band has always relied on some simple combinations - really talented musicians who combine into a greater sum to make fun, danceable, surf/garage styled music. The music is tight and defined, with all of them making equal musical contributions. On the opening song "Take a Stand," Jason Gentry's bass does the intro, which is a first for them. Although guitarist/vocalist Joe Emery is the obvious lead for the band, that's where his role ends. Ace Tone player Jeanine Attaway plays a melody more complex than Joe's guitar for a good part of the song, but drummer Steve Austin shows off his abilities by seeming to lead the song by changing up the beat enough to give the song some really neat complexity. This is not basic at all. The song has enough changes in structure to take The Ugly Beats out of their dominance as a live act and put it into your headphones. This gets followed up by the warm, jingle jangle of "Bring Her Down," with Jeanine and lead guitar Jake Garcia trading equal licks. From the first two songs, you can tell it's a really good band with very talented individuals. The third track, "Million Dollar Man" can throw even someone who's really familiar with them into a real shock. It's a stripped down acoustic number that has so much soul that when you hear drummer Steve Austin's lower voice calling "Where is the love, love, love, love that's been for me?", where each repetition adds more vocal harmony from his bandmates, one starts to respond to that plea with an empty feeling and their stomach and wanting to take part in the harmonies. They give us another taste of great vocal harmonies on the short, sweet "Get In Line."

Other songs like "I'm Gonna Break Her Heart" follow a definite '60s style by having a repeating chorus between each sentence of "I'm Gonna Break Her heart" that will get everyone singing along. Although that seems simple, it's really a gift to the listener and a potential live audience to have songs that are new but that one can become familiarized with to sing along. The retro instrumental "Action Plus" is especially fun with a spaced out keyboard lead, combined with that classic guitar sound that made Rickenbackers famous, but it's not achieved with a Rickenbacker. Although not the last song, "Last Stop" has the band pushing their vocal harmonies and dual guitars that can only make one think of "Pet Sounds," but fuses Jeanine's Keyboard as the backdrop that sets the mood for everyone else to follow.

It's hard not to write about every song on Take a Stand because each one stands alone so well that one can instantly find different things in each song that make them special. As a full length release, and although I wanted to avoid the comparison, it stands together with a much older release that inspired the album cover. This is around 35 minutes of great rock 'n roll without a breakout song or a particular song meant to draw someone in to the rest of the CD since the whole thing is great. Although I'm sure that everyone who owns "Take a Stand" might have their favorite song, there's a chance that over time, that favorite song will change to different tracks.

As much as most of us can't stand the state of the music industry these days, there are plenty of great, original rock bands out there, both veteran and new, who keep a spirit of originality and great music alive regardless of how many people come to see them when they play, but The Ugly Beats answer the call to their own album/CD title by "taking a stand" as a band that adds elements of early L.A. psychedelic folk rock to give more heart and soul to their own brand of rock. They're recognized for their live acts, but also by critics who say they love the whole "Nuggets" sound, but go farther in using that term to characterize anyone who does rock with a '60s garage/psychedelic base. That's an understatement to both The Ugly Beats and all 60 or so bands that are on the first two Nuggets compilations because it's not about a particular style of music. That comparison is like saying some modern band sounds like '80s music. Does that make much sense? How many different styles of rock had some recognition during the '80s? Nuggets, lesser known '60s rock 'n roll bands that are on those compilations, and The Ugly Beats share an ethos of playing great music that shows a genuine respect for those influences, stays grounded in the present, and withstands the test of time by not continuously staying in the ears of the general public, but by breaking new musical ground that causes musicians and music lovers to look back on them as being ahead of their time and creating new styles of music. It's not a formula, but an idea. Take a Stand stands as a great tribute and modern embodiment of that ethos.


Click on the picture to see the photo album from The Ugly Beats on March 28 opening for The Fleshtones.

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