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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

New Band Of The Day: Ulysses - THE GUARDIAN!

guardian.co.uk home

Ulysses (No 1,043)
These 70s fetishists from Bath are on a mission to revive glam, mixing cheesy, infectious pop with kick-ass guitar solos
Paul Lester
Paul Lester

guardian.co.uk

Ulysses
Retro heaven ... Ulysses

Hometown: Bath.

The lineup: Luke Smyth (vocals, guitar), Jules Wells (bass, backing vocals), Jay Synclair (drums, backing vocals), Tom Sartoryal (guitars, percussion, backing vocals).

The background: Pop might be rife with retromaniacs, but even given the rampant plundering of the past, we can't recall many attempts to revive glam. But now here come Ulysses, a band rather fond of the stomping beats of the Chinnichap era, the "hey!"s and handclaps of the Sweet, Suzi Quatro, the Glitter Band et al.

We tell a lie. Almost 20 years ago, Lawrence Hayward from Creation indie janglers Felt launched Denim: more than a band, they were a project, designed as a wholesale rejection of the decade he'd just left (the anthemic closing track on their 1992 debut album Back in Denim was a seven-minute pop diatribe called I'm Against the 80s) and a celebration of the previous one, thereby proving Simon Reynolds's 20-year theory: that two decades provides sufficient distance for full-scale musical rehabilitation (hence the Teddy Boy revivalists in the 70s, the punk-funk revival of the noughties, etc). But what marked Denim out was that they were intent on reviving the uncool 70s: the pre-punk, pre-disco period of cheesy glam and naff Top of the Pops hits.

Well, Ulysses are like a harder, more metal Denim: Denim meet the Darkness, if you will. "We're a glam band influenced by Thin Lizzy," they say. "That means pop songs with a rock attitude and kick-ass guitar solos. We're not embarrassed to love rock. Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper were a revelation. Having grown up thinking they were just 'bad metal' it was incredible to discover the depth to what they'd done." As for guitar solos, they wonder, "Shouldn't they kick a song into outer space?" For Ulysses, the 70s "is our natural home – it's the ultimate decade."

They even look the part, all beards and Jeff Lynne curls. But the period fetishism is really kept to the music, which is Darkness-style meta-metal with some of the tricksiness and tempo changes of another of their favourite 70s bands, 10cc – think a more stylised, 70s-obsessed Supergrass or Super Furry Animals. Their debut album, Everybody's Strange, opens with Eye on You, which samples, or recreates, the staccato guitar (or is it keyboard?) sound from the chorus to Bowie's Starman. The "hey"s are pure Glitter Band, the phased vocals reek of Roy Wood, while the guitar solo seems to have been learned from watching re-runs of the Old Grey Whistle Test circa 1971. It goes on a minute or so too long, another nicely authentic period detail, while the percussive coda is a bit Santana.

This sense of a condensed 70s runs throughout the album. Still has the bovver beat of Gary Glitter, some Brian May geetar and a tune catchy enough to have been a Chicory Tip B-side at least. It has the moronic infectiousness of all the best early-70s pop with the musicianly focus of rock – you can just picture the unironic orgiastic grimacing during the guitar solo. I Get High With Your Love is Deep Purple rifferama in excelsis, Won't Back Down is like Black Sabbath if they'd been signed to Mickie Most's RAK label, and Sometimes could be a cover version of a long-lost smash from one of those gloriously tacky Top of the Pops collections that Bob Stanley probably owns the full set of. Solid gold easy action and no mistake.

The buzz: "In another era Everybody's Strange would be a platinum-selling album and Ulysses would be packing stadiums" – AAA music.

The truth: We're not sure what's in the Bath water, but we'd like a dip.

Most likely to: Have mainstream appeal (if the music biz suddenly time-travelled back to 1972).

Least likely to: Go all stream-of-consciousness.

What to buy: Everybody's Strange is available to download from iTunes via Future Classic Rock Records in August.

File next to: Denim, Roy Wood, the Sweet, the Darkness.

Links: www.myspace.com/ulyssesgb.

Wednesday's new band: Emeli Sande.

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