London ULU: 23rd September

Set List
Same Band
Floodlit World
Over There
I'll Show You Mine
Happy Times
Stay Young
My Impossible Dream
Football Meat
Everything Picture

We never knew what rock'n'roll could do. Not until five physically deviant freakoid Martians, unimaginable outside of some X-Men cartoon strip, leapt fully formed from the grooves of Pulp's 'Mis-Shapes' and set about throttling every guitar in Christendom until they spewed molten musical mercury into our gaping, lapping mouths. Enter Ultrasound. KA-BOOM! You can tell at a glance that it's a misfit thing. Here's Baldy Drummer. essentially Pee-wee Herman in a chest wig. Here's Bouncy Keyboardist, a human Muppet whose entire head consists of a flouncing blond mop and a bulbous, dopey and quite possibly felt nose. Here's Bass Amazon Vanessa, wielding her instrument as if it was hewn from Stonehenge and howling like 'The Great Gig In The Sky' has been rescheduled at Hades' place due to overwhelming demand. Here's guitarist Richard, smashing his guitar to smithereens in 2.4 seconds at the end of the set, beating Pete Townshend's 1965 record by a good three minutes. Lovable weirdos all. And here's Andrew 'Tiny' Wood, clad in billowing white Simon Le Bon coat, his bowlcut strewn with glitter like Friar Tuck auditioning for Kenickie. Throughout tonight's voyage of crescendo and heartache, of craving and catharsis, Tiny croons, bows, reaches for the balcony and sings his innards into a slobbering wet heap, a vaudevillian dandy trapped in the body of a Bernard Manning-O-Gram that's let himself go a bit. He's a 30-something man-cum-small hillock living out his sveltest rock star fantasies and DEMANDING we listen. "Hey kids! Rock'n'roll is here/So scream all you like", he howls during 'Stay Young' fingers flicking pompously skywards and the kids actually scream. It's as if, after a lifetime of lost ambitions, tonight Tiny grasps the stars that taunted him all those years and wrings out the juices. God knows Ultrasound haven't made it easy for themselves, releasing a Gregorian terrace anthem as their first single 'proper'; refusing to play 'Kurt Russell'; cranking up their career slowly rather than surfing into Quickbuck Central on the hype from last year's NME Unsigned Showcase. It's as if they've deliberately crippled themselves to prove they can run faster anyway. In Ultraworld, y'see, it's not about where you get so much as the agonies you endure to get there. So they strive, magnificently. Strive to drag 'Suckle' out of its hideously prog opening and thrust it into the realms of the epic show-stopper. Strain to keep the last finger-grip on their rebellious youth in 'Stay Young' and the thrilling swirl-punk of 'Over There' and 'Same Band'. Sweat buckets trying to sound like a mammoth ABBA on spangly new single 'I'll Show You Mine'. Slave, in fact, to make the most heart-wrenching and operatic rock music of the decade, if not their lives. They'll accept no less. "FUCK OFF, YOU FAT CAAAAHNT!" shouts one man at Tiny as he leaves the stage. The rest of us, as it happens, would rather just fuck him...

new musical express 3 october 1998 by mark beaumont