Friday, August 10, 2012

REVIEW: Ugly Winner - Inside Your Wave

San Jose, California's Ugly Winner are playing at that terrific 90's indie ethos, and playing it quite well. Quiet/loud, tension/release, a pounding rhythm section and some truly memorable guitar work - it's a recipe for 9 tracks' worth of enjoyment.

They're a four piece: Takashi Makino (Guitar/vocals), Todd Flanagan (Bass), Nick Lopez (Drums) and Maxwell Brokenhagen (Guitar). The two guitars are definitely a plus, as Ugly Winner features a very full, evocative sound. It's lo-fi in a way, with the vocals buried a little bit, but the sound is far from lacking. Check out the lead track, "Fret One (Grow Old)" here:

A review of the song titles: "Thoughtful Spots", "Perfect Nothing", "Secret Song" - might lead you to guess that Makino's songwriting is all about taking you somewhere else. And you'd be right. The songs are long and dense, and really surround you with a heavy sound. There's feedback (check out the opening of "Fret One (Grow Old)" and no shortage of overlapping guitar work. And this being a California band, you'll find surf elements as well. Check out "TCBAHS" (lyrics contain the repeated phrase "This could be a heartbreak song") for some of that. But it's never completely straight ahead, and the influences aren't just recycled. This is thoughtful, very well-crafted rock music.

In places, it is definitely reminiscent of Sonic Youth and in places, it reminds me of some of the faster, early Guided by Voices - maybe "Cut Out Witch" or "Auditorium" - you know, a big sound, but delightfully lo-fi for all that. And I'd be remiss not to mention the resemblance between the excellent bass work and San Pedro's good old Minutemen... All this is to say, I really like this record and am optimistic about their ability to deliver this sound live...

Check out this video for "Senses Safe":

And you can download the song here:

The music is definitely underpinned by a reverence for punk's golden age... check out this video of them performing closing track "Ha Ha":

It's out now (released July 20) and if you're out West, you might have a chance to catch them live:

08.11.12 - Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
08.12.12 - Santa Fe, NM @ Better Day
08.13.12 - El Paso,TX @ Lips Bar
08.14.12 - Tempe, AZ @ Long Wongs
08.15.12 - Phoenix, AZ @ TBA
08.16.12 - San Diego, CA @ Tin Can Ale House
08.17.12 - LA, CA @ Origami vinyl(Early Show)
08.17.12 - LA, CA @ Warehouse Party(Night Show)

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