Review – S/T, UUVVWWZ (Saddle Creek Records)
Originally published by ʻSUP Magazine, May 2009
Frankly “It’s Blitz!” was alright but left me wondering where Karen O’s spirit went, and hey! I think we’ve found it. With their self-titled debut, Lincoln, Nebraska’s UUVVWWZ are at once as melodically abrasive as Deerhoof, as mathematical and chaotic as Lightning Bolt, and as volatile with ambition as Patti Smith.
That’s a lot of things to be at once, a mashing of genres that, handled by the wrong kids, could come out overwrought and painful. Luckily these are the right kids: Teal Gardner’s voice is an instrument of several octaves, effectively shrill at fever pitch moments as in “Shark Suit” and “Jap Dad,” deep and expansive on the almost-eight-minute “Neolaño.” This lengthy track is meandering but deliberate, its structure dissolving into experimental wash and then reassembling with an order loosely enforced by Jim Schroeder’s minimal guitar work.
Almost everywhere else on the album, however, Schroeder’s part is neither loose nor minimal. He can waver into surf rock swells and immediately withdraw back into incredible tidiness. His sophistication has him fleeing from comfort to panic, up and down the fret board, at the flip of a frenetic switch. This agility is the perfect and necessary doppelganger to Gardner’s voice; together they’re the legs that send the maverick running wild. And the bass does not anchor but bolsters, setting the melodic bar high even at its lowest level, as made clear in the prowling, jangling final track “Hum Jam.”
Thomas Ambroz’s drums gather momentum by a hovering sense of anticipation, at the start of “Berry Can” especially; it’s if they’re just waiting to be uncuffed so they can leap onto the rest of the song and beat the shit out of it, but, you know, in a rhythmic and measured manner. Ambroz lets no part of his kit feel neglected. He works the cymbals into a manic clatter without missing a beat and he makes sure the rest of the noise gets to where it’s going with whatever sense of hurry-up need be involved.
UUVVWWZ have electrically revived a few tired basics and pushed and pulled them to their limits, disfiguring noise into pop into avant-whatever and dozens of weird shapes in between. What’s created is a highly unstable body of music, unwilling to resign or resolve, wielding a reactive energy thatʼs as agitating as it is arresting. You’re stuck, but youʼre exhilarated.