UGLY KID JOE – UGLIER THAN THEY USED TA BE
Release Date: 18th September 2015
℗ 2015 UKJ Records
- Hell Aint Hard To Find
- Let The Record Play
- Bad Seed
- Mirror The Man
- She’s Already Gone
- Nothing Ever Changes
- My Old Man
- Under The Bottom
- Ace Of Spades (feat. Phil Campbell of Motörhead)
- Papa Was A Rolling Stone (feat. Dallas Frasca)
Now how can a willing world resist a new installment from California based Ugly Kid Joe, and let’s just call it twenty years in the waiting. Their last recording in Motel California was released in 1996 to very borderline reviews and sub expectation sales figures. But that’s mainstream media and the truth is that there was, and still remains a cult like appreciation for this album. Some out there still hatefully attribute the Ugly Kid Joe break up in 1997 to the masses failing to get behind this release. But here we are in 2015 and Ugly Kid Joe are back and polished.
We have to keep in mind that the Ugly Kid Joe crew have remained at the forefront of music production and performances. It seemed only natural that Dave Fortman (guitars, backing vocals) should produce the new album following enormous success with the last three Mudvayne releases, not to mention his highly acclaimed work with Godsmack on The Oracle with Sully Erna, Evanescence, Slipknot, Otep, Superjoint Ritual, Atomship, Eyehategod, and Simple Plan.
With such a sensational list of fantastic collaborators including Cordell Crockett, Shannon Larkin, Sonny Mayo and Klaus Eichstadt, this collection was destined for prominence. Without giving a Joe by Joe narrative of their work since 2007 it seem sufficient to say that the masses were pleased with a 2010 reunion and keenly awaited a studio recording. Well the wait is at an end and guest appearances from Dallas and Wizzö are well worth the album price, besides the Ugly Kid Joe excitement.
Hell Aint Hard To Find is subdued, but thoroughly Ugly Kid Joe as we are gently introduced back to their sound. Catchy and comparatively relaxed but indicative of how they guys have matured over the years. They certainly know their audience.
Then we discover Let The record Play is reminiscent of Ugly Kid Joe days past are we are pleasantly met with that familiar rhythm the lads have been celebrated for so many years. Yes, a pleasant reminder, but with Bad Seed we find Whitfield Crane back in the familiar vocal form of old, and we can relax into the album knowing there is familiarity to please our yearning for new tracks with his voice intact. Those familiar with Life of Agony, Medication, Another Animal, Richards/Crane and Mass Mental would have entertained no such doubts.
Mirror The Man and She’s Already Gone are classic are classic Ugly Kid Joe but opposite sides of the middle ground for the band. By no means polar extremes, but inherently at odds nonetheless. Both brilliant in their own way, with battle hardened riffs to separate the two.
Nothing Ever Changes kicks off as a beautifully delivered and soulful serenade and we find ourselves waiting for the impact of guitar brutality to launch us forward into hard ass rock rebellion. Instead we find the track remains true to the opening and is played beautifully as a mid-album breather.
My Old Man should sit beautifully with the world of hard rockers, or more their offspring, as we are met with catchy groove and magnificent solos building the track to reinforce the band being true to their roots, but with the benefits inherent of rock and roll maturity. And while we are on maturity, the first lead guitar solo is none other than Phil Campbell of Motörhead, who also played brilliantly in producing the extraordinary track Under The Bottom.
Menacing melodies suit perfectly for the introduction of Under The Bottom and that classic Ugly Kid Joe power push to pump the track back into the hard rock genre, beyond anything produced previously by the band. The vocal delivery is reminiscent of Everything I Have About You but with more ferocity, and bear in mind, this is a different band now. With their collective experience and a quite alternate outlook, every component of the band and production crew comes together like a finely tuned machine of perfection. And all of that before the sensational thrill that is in store for you about the 3.5 minute mark as we are pleasantly surprised with an change in pace and almost every heavy rock sound you would care to coin. With riffs Thin Lizzy would love and lyrical delivery Led Zepplin would be proud of, we genuinely find ourselves discovering the experience behind this band in contemporary times. Put aside the obvious mainstream appeal and you will still find yourself with an incredibly powerful and satisfying track you will find yourself reaching for repeatedly. Ugly Kid Joe in this manifestation is well worth the price of the album, even if for this track alone. Historic. Bravura.
I challenge anyone to deny the power and ferocity of the Ace Of Spades cover complete with a guest appearance from Phil Campbell of Motörhead. Absolutely sensational with Wizzö to boot, but I can’t see him, or Lemmy allowing anyone too far from the known formula. The fact that Zac Morris sat down to the studio kit, and recorded the drum tracks sans song, click track or singer, is testament to his astonishing prowess.
Enemy finishes off the album in fabulous form but not before we are met with yet another special treat. None other than Australia’s own rock diva Dallas Frasca making a truly majestic guest appearance on the Papa Was A Rolling Stone cover of the Rare Earth classic track. Magnificently composed to suit each band member and delivered so flawlessly that it assists profoundly in making the entire album an exciting achievement. Perhaps it was the unique circumstances under which this track was produced, or playing with previous protagonists, now peers, but Jeff Curran is utterly sensational. Even more so than usual.
This is not Ugly Kid Joe then, this is Ugly Kid Joe now. And to be perfectly honest, this album is truly, finely polished musical magnificence. No music shelf can lay claim to the august title of collection without this work.