Underwater Getdown

Underwater Getdown's not real big on linear arrangement, with its various instruments intruding on choruses and bridges and taking the songs for wild swings around the meter. There's some good, moody songwriting here, and some nice melodies, but stylistically, UG is all over the place. Some songs, like "Monrovia," have a granola jam-band vibe similar to Oakley Hall; some songs, like "Slingshot" and "The New Asthma," are a strange mixture of spacey goth and haunted freak-folk; other songs, like the 1:11 track "Grasshopper," open with squalls of feedback and end up sounding like diluted Pixies tunes; while still other songs, like the standout "Electric Lights," straddle indefinable lines — it sounds like the B-52s singing in front of a band that's half '70s UK punk outfit X-Ray Spex and half disco queen Donna Summer's 1978 backing band. It's schizo boogie that ends with a cacophonous explosion of horns and distortion. The instrumentation throughout the album — particularly the alternating melancholy and malignant saxophone — is startling in its unconventional flow and layers but works in some strange way 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent of the time? Well, that's where horribly discordant and off-key songs like "Empire" fall. And songs like the stripped-down, ghost-folk number "The New Asthma" crumble under vocalist Bryan's shaky, tortured tenor. The self-production is solid, and there are clear indications that this band's got some serious songwriting chops. The songs might be too eclectic — there's no "vibe" or "mood" throughout the album, and there are sometimes several sonic and polar shifts within a single song, but one gets the feeling Underwater Getdown can nail it. As soon as they decide what "it" is.


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