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20 April 2009
In the autumn of 1995 I was fortunate enough to see an early performance by Urusei Yatsura, then opening for (but easily eclipsing) forgotten Glasgow indie rockers AC Acoustics. Although still a touch raw, the performance left me highly impressed - if only at lead singer Graham Kemp`s novel use of a drumstick during the immense closing song `Siamese`. Nearly a decade and a half later, the band are back, minus Kemp and now a three piece featuring Fergus Lawrie and siblings Ian and Elaine Graham, as Projekt A-Ko.
It`s heartening, as the low-slung bass and frazzled guitar of `Hey Palooka!` (a Urusei Yatsura name if I ever heard one) fill my ears, to report they also appear to be back to the form that made the former act`s key albums `All Hail...` and `Slain By...` such abrasive joy. That isn`t to suggest the band are merely retracing steps. Even though both `Nothing Works Twice` and `Ichiro on Third` irresistably conjure images of that night in King Tut`s in 1995, both tracks have been available as a limited edition single and free web download respectively for well over a year now and act as a handy bridge between the two eras.
New tracks offer a new side to the trio and, in particular, bringing Elaine`s cooing vocals to the forefront (never better than on `Otaku Blue`) gives a soft edge to their often pulverising sound which now seems to owe as much to former peers Placebo as their heroes Sonic Youth, particularly on `Supertriste Duxelle`. Equally, with Fergus now leading on all songs, it gives us a chance to hear how fragile his voice can be. The audible crack on `Here Comes a New Challenger!` calls to mind the nervous, young Barney Sumner on `Movement`-era New Order.
The majority of the album finds the threesome hard, fast and loud, with the brazen `Utopia` clearly written to give the band the chance to fill the stage with noise when playing live just as they did years ago. However, it`s not merely a collection of driven noise, `Scintilla` offers a stark change of pace down to a plodding grunge garnished with slicing guitar screech, while its sister track `Yoyodyne` blends children`s cheer, robot bleeps and a charming guitar line.
`Yoyodyne` will thrill fans of Urusei Yatsura with its nostalgic bursts of melodic noise while simultaneously befriending a new generation for whom Sonic Youth are just a little bit too old.
A decade ago Glasgow's Urusei Yatsura were one of the best-loved acts of the acclaimed 'lo-fi' scene, successfully mixing the noise of Sonic Youth with the slacker rock of Pavement maintaining their own unique stamp on each of their four albums. Three-quarters of the band are now back (original vocallist / guitarist Graham Kemp is absent) with yet another name plucked from the world of Manga, Fergus Lawrie assuming lead vocals on all tracks and bassist Elaine Graham picking up the backing vocals. The passing of time has mellowed the threesome, the Pixies-tinged 'Nothing Works Twice' seems comparatively fast but actually like a Urusei Yatsura 'ballad'. 'Goodbye Sunlight', on the other hand, comes across like one of Super Furry Animals' more tender moments showing the band in a brand new light. So, a superb comeback with the only minus point being that it took them so bloody long. This is a must for ex-Urusei Yastura fans...and everyone else for that matter.