Despite a name which could lead the casual observer to dismiss them as a chamber music project from one of the capital’s posh schools more… “Royal Edinburgh Music”
Less a band, more singer-songwriter Rick Webster, Unkle Bob have (has?) been making dreamy slightly lovelorn pop for the past decade, to critical acclaim and some small measure of commercial success.
Following a brief spell working with the Gang of Four’s Andy Gill (plus Eddi Reader) under the Tom Fool moniker, Webster has gone ‘solo’ again and while he’s not quite returned to the semi-acoustic sound that characterised the ‘band’ previously, this is a shift towards more chart-friendly music. Not that this is a problem of course – it’s easy to throw in references like Coldplay, but these multi-layered, slicky-produced tunes has more nods to the likes of REM and Morrissey. When ‘Brother’ builds to a crescendo and muttered vocals flit in and out of the mix it’s a glorious moment.
‘Home’, the other standout on this EP, similarly builds to an epic conclusion, and while 10 years is a long time to be beavering away on the margins of the mainstream, you only need to look at the likes of Elbow to realise that for the truly talented, recognition and wider acclaim can eventually arrive.
The fact that this album opens with ‘Umami’ – the ‘5th taste’ in oriental terms, vaguely savory but not really recognised by anyone in the west – may be significant.
Kill the Captains are a undefinable and possibly acquired taste. Sounds Mean’s opening salvo is in fact a jerky indie-friendly tune, possibly one that could make girls dance. It contrasts with what follows, in particular ‘Refutenic’, a slab of retro proto-funk. In the main it’s palatable indie-pop, and accomplished at that – ‘Share The Load’ boasts a spidery guitar line, although it’s maybe a bit too commercial for these ears. Although not as much as ‘The Taking Of’, dreamy shoegaze that’s pretty lightweight given what’s gone before.
‘Disco Nazi’ shows the best of the band – late 80s no-wave/funk a la Shriekback or Dub Sex, with a line in sardonic wit – “Who the hell do you think you are, John Travolta? It’s not the movies”. Indeed. Shake your ass to this.