The Glam Psych sound of ULYSSES
aaamusic | On 11, Jun 2011
Future Classic Rock Records
Release Date: August 2011
“Bananas Glitterball Glam meets Psyche on the brown acid! It’s the Stones meets The Glitter Band!” exclaimed Sean Cook of Spiritualized after witnessing Ulysses tear the house down.
Bath’s melodic rockhouse may not be quite as deep as James Joyce’s novel, but they’re just as “heavy”! Luke Smyth, band leader, singer, axe god and a man that can pull off facial hair and curls far better than Jeff Lynne classifies his musical troupe as “Future Classic Rock”; they have the big riffs, squealing guitar solos and pounding drums, for sure. Sweet, Slade, maybe even a dash of Ronson circa Ziggy and the nifty moves of Wings all spring to mind, but what sets them apart from the one time stadium rockers The Darkness (whose Frankie Poulain is a massive fan and whom myopic critics have an inclination to compare them to) is a psychedelic, slightly schizo approach somewhat reminiscent of Supergrass or The Super Furry Animals “less afraid of drinking from rock’s loving cup” is how journo Tom Cox put it. Super, eh? Not arf! Take the end of ‘Dark Old Days’, which after starting as a bouncy tango careens into a psychedelic freak-out a worthy of The Roundhouse 1969!
Luke told Classic Rock magazine “We are a glam band influenced by Thin Lizzy. That means pops songs with a rock attitude and kick-ass guitar solos… and there’s a dark psychological edge to the music as well.” And there is. Song titles ‘Everybody’s Strange’, ‘Casualty’ and ‘Dark Old Days’ hint at deeper issues that any self imposed rocker will be aware of. “Well I pretty much wasted my late teens / early 20s on psychedelics,” he tells me “then spent a few years recovering!” It also seems the after effects of the “lost period” have helped with the concoction of lyrics. “[When writing] I can go into a deep depression… what’s left is usually a subconscious splurge that [eventually] makes sense,” he laughs. “I guess I must be pretty dark! I like to mix it up, nothing too obvious.”10CC masked serious topics with their glorious pop vocals and conversely edgy rock attack, odd changes and shapes and Ulysses play the same game, enveloping their lyrics in a sticky confection that needs to be bitten through to gain that bitter after taste. The Willy Wonka of modern rock, perhaps? “I’ve always been drawn to it though” he says of trippy music, “be it a compact psychedelic masterpiece like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ or a sprawling brew a la The Black Crowes or even Spiritualized. The songs themselves are written from a psychedelic point of view and when we get together and play we always seem to naturally head in that direction.”
Everybody’s Strange began back in 2009 with backing track sessions recorded with Bruno Ellingham (Delphic, Goldfrapp, New Order) at Namm studios in Wiltshire. It was completed and honed the following year in their own secret bunker. Luke adds, “I produced the album myself. It was sometimes overwhelming and definitely painstaking.” So what informed the process? “The Pretty Things’ Parachute, The Cars’ first two LPs, Alvin Stardust, Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham solo stuff and there’s some Mick Ronson in there, maybe even some Weezer too – everything came out in the mix,” Luke smiles, hunching his shoulders with palms raised to the air. “It appeared to us that no-one was mixing up concise pop songs with soul and rockin’ guitars any more, even though everyone seems to like that stuff – it’s still relevant. In fact, as far as I’m concerned it’s the ultimate vehicle.We just got to a point in our musical lives where we were suddenly no longer embarrassed to love the rock any more. Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper were a revelation. Having grown up thinking they were just ‘bad metal bands’ it was incredible to discover the depth in what they had done. Quite frankly, they blew our tiny minds to bits!” And what about that full on axe god thing? “Guitar solos?” He asks. “Shouldn’t they kick a song into outer space? He questions me whilst answering his own question. “Sounds like a good thing to me!”
A few major labels were very interested in Ulysses but as BIG labels so often destroy rather than MAKE bands that don’t fit in the box it’s nice to see them go it alone. Masters of their own recorded destiny. In another era Everybody’s Strange would be a platinum selling album and Ulysses would be packing stadiums. With an album this good it just may still happen!