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U.S. Bombs – “Covert Action” CD 13/30:32
Another year, another U.S. Bombs record. I’m stoked that Curt/L.E.S. Stitches is the new 2nd guitarist for the Bombs, it seems that the L.E.S. Stitches are on permanent vacation (a definite maybe). While that’s a shame, at least the U.S. Bombs have put out their most memorable record in a long time, perhaps ever. Madman singer Duane Peters still has the punk pipes from hell, but he’s writing more interesting words and the band’s really pumping up the tunes. Long-time critics won’t be swayed by this record, but fresh-faced new fans will love this one. Jesse
@ Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026

U.S. Bombs – “Put Strength in the Final Blow” CD 14/33:59
Surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because the Bombs have always been one of those punk bands who are great when one sees them live while in a drunken haze, but who were rarely able to generate that same degree of excitement and exuberance in their studio recordings. The songs here all date from early 1993 and 1994 records and gigs, but have recently been remixed for your listening pleasure by Duane Peters. They have a nice punchy instrumental sound, and the singalong background vocals have been brought forward in the mix. It’s hard to fault great tracks like the instrumental “Time is Loose” and punk anthems like “The Way it Is,” “Bubble Gum,” “Rockets,” and “Academy.” Why, it reminds me of a mid-60’s Bombs show I attended in a warehouse in Oakland… Jeff
@ www.disasterecords.com

U.S. Christmas - “Prayer Meeting” CD 11/62:47
This is either beautifully symphonic or a fucking mess…I’m going with both, and I think that’s what makes it a particularly interesting listen. Some folks might consider this ‘stoner rock’, although I’m not sure what that means exactly. If you’re thinking along the lines of Sleep, Caustic Resin, High on Fire…in other words, bands who really like Black Sabbath and the wrath that has been brought to this land since their inception, then you’re on the right track. U.S. Christmas sound like this, sure; but something about them is a bit off, probably due to the fact that they were born, raised, and exist in a tiny town in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s this extra bit that makes them interesting and not repetitive. But don’t take my word for it – download a track or two off of their site, and if you like what you hear email the band and they’ll send you a CD for pretty cheap. They also say that ‘every order comes with a sew-on patch’, and who doesn’t like patches? Well, except for that Patch Adams, he can go straight to hell because of that stupid ass movie. Jake
@ www.uschristmas.net

Ukrainians – "Istoriaya: The Best of the Ukranians" CD 20/74:07
I had no idea until this was given to me that this band is the alter-ego of the Wedding Present; you can just color me stupid I guess. What apparently started off as a joke band has seemingly become a pretty regular thing for them, as they have gone on to produce four albums and three EPs under the Ukrainians’ name. If you’re unfamiliar with their sound, it comes across as a blend of eastern-European folk songs, the eclecticism of the Pogues, and the straight-forward modern rock sound of their other band the Wedding Present. If for no other reason, the album is worth a listen for their Ukrainian covers of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “The Queen is Dead”, Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs”, and the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK”, all fantastic. Jake
@ www.the-ukrainians.com

Umbrella Sequence – “The Disappearing Line/Athena” CD 5/23:02
The Umbrella Sequences’ lead singer Ryan Rupprecht has a voice that’s as rubbery, ethereal and weird as his band’s music. Somewhere between Craig Wedren and Thom Yorke sits Rupprecht’s helium-inflected crooning. Which is perfect, because the music is just as buoyant and hard to pin down. Careening from glitchy electronic backdrops to Moog and squeezebox-inflected numbers, “The Disappearing Line/Athena” four-song EP is a dizzying introduction to a great new band. Like Grandaddy, The Umbrella Sequence deals in miniature epics, where washes of textured guitar can wipe out an entire city then rebuild it in seconds flat. Great shit, especially if you can deal with the occasionally grating, high-register vocals. John
@ www.theumbrellasequence.com

Umiak! - s/t CD 8/20:29
This Philadelphia band's debut CD is a definite post punk hardcore effort, with male and female vocals, all kinds of completely non-melodic chord progressions and chuggalug guitars. This is far from my usual cup of tea, but anything this off kilter usually gets my attention, for better or worse. They seem very competent at their chosen style of music, and meld in some very early Pixies riffs here and there. I'll admit, this grates on me after awhile, and I've listened to it several times so I can get my head around it, but that also probably means they're doing their job well. Steve
@ heyumiak@yahoo.com

Uncle Fucker – “Usurpers of the Tradition” CD 14/37:06
This band with the unfortunate name combines authentic country and bluegrass licks with the franticness and crunch of punk. From banjo and fiddle to chunky punk guitar, UF tweaks both the country and the punk traditions in ways that local bands like Ding Dang tried but never did as well. The band struts through a number of country standards like “Long Black Veil” and “Tennessee Stud”, and the combination of male and female vocals make this even more appealing. Crazy, chaotic, twangy, and all over just plain original, check out this band o’ country-fried freaks! Jesse
@ www.unclefucker.net

Undead – “First, Worst and Cursed” CD 16/39:57
Not to be confused with NY’s Undead (which featured former Misfit Bobby Seele) this was the identically-named SF outfit, headed by someone by the name of Sid Terror. These folks seemed to have gotten lost in the mists of time, usually overlooked or barely mentioned in most histories of Bay Area Punk. Of course even a cursory listen to this retrospective (composed of single and album tracks, with one hidden ‘new’ track) provides a few clues as to their obscurity. Based on this evidence they were a second-tier group at best, cranking out generic fairly mediocre thrash-and-bash that was not quite on the level of the Tools, much less No Alternative, (far less the Avengers or Dils). Granted you can find much worse from the era without looking too hard, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t at least a dozen other period SF punk outfits whose waxings I’d pull off the shelf before this one. For true-blue Killed-by-Death/SF punk collectors only. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

Undertones - "Get What You Need" CD 13/38:19
First thing you need to know is that this Undertones album is without longtime front man Feargal Sharkey. Second thing you need to know is that the Undertones are longtime also-rans in the world of punk rock. Third thing you need to know is that this is pretty good. "Get What You Need" isn't reinventing the wheel, it's Ramones-like catchy punk rock and roll with a focus on songwriting and enough of a knowledge of the history of garage rock to be a cut above the rest. If that kind of thing is what you like you could do far, far worse than pick up the latest Undertones album. Conan
@ www.theundertones.com

Undertones - s/t CD 26/56:08
It scares me just a bit to think there might be someone who loves punk/powerpop and might have never heard “Teenage Kicks”, one of the seminal masterpieces of the genre. That’s included on this re-issue of the ‘Tones first album along with the other tracks from their brilliant 1978 indie label debut single. The reformed version of the band is minus the superb and distinctive vocals of Feargal Sharkey, and he really really helps set this band apart from the competition. Irish bands from the late 70s wrote some memorable tuneful punk, but Undertones set the standard. Great selection of bonus tracks here. Quite an essential release. Mel
@ www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

Unicorns – “Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?” CD 13/41:02
Sounding like so many bands you’ve wish you heard before, attempts to categorize the Unicorns fail in every respect, except maybe “undeniably cool.” “Who Will Cut…” is a spontaneous clusterfuck of a great album, silly enough to have song titles like “Inoculate the Innocuous” and serious enough at parts to rock like few indie bands have done this year. Equal time is given to guitars and synths, but the band never relies on one trick for more than a few minutes, dropping the strings, horn, and beatbox. I’m thinking Hefner, Bis, maybe even Of Montreal. Those bands approximate the sound of this album roughly, but capturing the lyrical genius and almost overwhelming hooks is another thing entirely. This is one of those rare pop albums where you never really know what’s going on at first, but you don’t need to because every moment is inspired musical joy. Scott
@ www.the-unicorns.com

United Space - "Fear of Abandonment EP" CD 5/15:13
United Space is a group with revolving members, a love of indie pop, and zero pretension. Their intelligent, jangly songs skirt complete chaos without ever actually touching it. Recorded on the fly and on the cheap in 16 hours, "Fear of Abandonment" is one of those records that will be passed around on CDRs and cassettes until someone either signs the band or they break up. Tinkling toy xylophone and energetic drumming keep "The Grackle" aloft for its short duration, which is full of rhythmic conceits and spoken-sung lyrics (a la Lou Barlow or Steve Malkmus). I'm also reminded of Quasi's early recordings, minus the reliance on fuzz chords. Solid, appealing rock in the vague collegiate tradition of mid-90s Matador and Sub Pop bands. John
@ pbl4@swt.edu

United States of America - s/t CD 20/66:52
Psychedelics anyone? Best known for the superlative ballad, "Love Song For the Dead Che" (a hit for Northern Picture Library), USA may have been the East Coast's answer to Jefferson Airplane, although I learned from the liner notes that they were actually bicoastal. The notes include a history of the band from bandleader/keyboardist Joseph Byrd, and an interview with singer/co-songwriter Dorothy Moskowitz. I compared the sound to the LP reissue from 1987, and I'm glad to report that it sounds identical. This seminal 1968 release was effective in incorporating electronics into '60s underground pop music, and here it is once more with ten fine bonus tracks. Mel
@ www.sundazed.com

Unseen – “Complete Single Collection 1994-2000” CD 30/44:12
Collection of various seven inch/compilation/rare/unreleased tracks from this Boston streetpunk crew. Unlike too many similar outfits, these lads throw off the leaden boots and crank out some rousing high-quality streetpunk that’s fast and furious (as opposed to merely being one or the other). This release serves as a good introduction to newcomers, while fans will be glad to fill some holes in their collection. Definitely one of the better bands to grace Da Streets today. David
@ www.punkcore.com

Unseen – “Explode” CD 12/21:39
Boston’s favorite punx have returned with yet another album (their second on BYO) of those ol’ street sounds to Fuck Shit Up to. Granted, this particular release isn’t quite as distinctive as past efforts, but it’s still a solid slab of proud-and-punk. Still, it might be a good idea to shake up the formula (or at least regain some of their earlier intensity) next time around… David
@ www.byorecords.com

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start - "And Nothing is #1" CD 10/28:18
Ya gotta wonder about a band that would adopt such a stupid name. Are they too clever for there own good? Probably. "You Landed So Gracefully" dispels some of my skepticism with its fractured post-modern melancholy. The second track, "I Know You'll Find Out That I'm A Geek", slams against the wall with a more resounding thud, as does the third track. Maybe the name doesn't matter at all as they transcend the moment and marry uncomfortable post-rock with hard-nosed rhythms and schizophrenic vocals. The Boy Wonder Jinx pops into my head as a partial point of reference. Turns out this might be one of the finds of the month. I think it'll have to park itself in my collection despite the silly moniker. Anthony
@ www.ohevrecords.com

Urinals – “What is Real and What is Not” CD 15/37:09
Apparently the original impetus behind reforming under the Urinals name was less to trade on the brand name than an admirable attempt to get back to basics. Still, it took them seven years to release a new album, with a change in guitarists in the meantime but the original moniker (if apparently not quite the spirit) in place. The material here is slower and considerably less intense than what came before (even when the original band transformed into the still-superior 100 Flowers). The new guitarist (who brings with him too many “rock” stylings) ends up being an ill-fit as well; he usually ends up being the reason why so many songs end up being better in concept than execution. David
@ www.warninglabelrecords.com MP3 Download

Useless ID - "No Vacation From the World" CD 15/35:03
There is some decent music coming out of Israel these days, and although you'd think the rising political tensions would lead to some heavy duty political punk, these guys more or less ignore the issue all together to stick to tried and true pop punk along the lines of other SoCal punks bands like the Ataris Songs stick to themes about girls and relationships done over fairly commonly used three chord guitar melodies and singalong harmonies. They do add their own flourishes, such as an occasional moog noodle here and there, and emphasize the pop hooks more than others in the genre. There is a catchiness that's often missing in other bands in the genre; they don't feel the need to turn to guitars and speed of the songs to 11, and it accentuates some well thought out melodies and time changes. One of the better releases I've heard in the pop punk genre in a long time. Steve
@ www.kungfurecords.com

USS Horsewhip - "Vs. The Kids" CD 5/20:26
In the same state with idiosyncratic musical worlds Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma, Bellingham, WA's claim to fame is.Slam Suzzanne? Actually, Gas Huffer are from there. Add these punk oddballs to the B'ham list of 15-minute legends of northwest music. What's been wrong with punk rock for the past decade? Too much fuckin' around with power rockin' and heavy vocals. This record is riding the wave in my mind that runs from the Laughing Hyenas to the Hellacopters. I wanted to find a band to compare them to somewhere in between but I can't. They stand alone like an island of ugly in a sea of sameness. Rises to the level of near-sexy while being generally pretty disheveled. Or, maybe I'll hate it in a month or two. Definitely among the year's best. Anthony
@ www.usshorsewhip.com

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