Bath based power pop loons Ulysses have been delivering quirky, glam-slam slices of noise for many years now. With more facial hair than a cave full of cavemen and a wardrobe half-inched from Huggy Bear, they have produced 3 albums of vintage noise steeped equally in both 70’s nostalgia and Brit Pop goodness. You see, these fun loving chaps owe as much to the likes of Super Furry Animals and Supergrass as they do to heroes like Bowie and Bolan. And it’s a good mix of influences that shine through to make their fourth long player ‘On Safari’ a fantastic ride from start to finish.
Check out the cover art by the wonderful Caitlin Mattisson for starters. Lions, giant snakes and a hot medieval babe with 8 arms and a broadsword….fair play, I’m sold on that alone! Let’s hope the music is up to it too.
And of course it is, Ulysses does not disappoint. Opener ‘Looking For A Guru’ sets the scene with a glitter-coated, platform boot stomp. What sounds like a sitar introduces the song that rides on a catchy refrain over big beats, handclaps and Paul Stanley helium vocals. It’s more 70’s than a packet of Spangles and twice as sweet. A glorious album opener.
The following funky, yet spunky ‘Doctors And Nurses’ out-foxes Foxy Shazam. Sirens wail and sweet vocals harmonise the intro. Tongue-in-cheek lyricism and double-entendres are rife. Its disco groove shouts Scissor Sisters, while its wailing guitar outro shouts Kiss, what’s not to like here? A total contrast to the opener, yet still in tune with their retro sound.
These boys have a handful of singles on offer for you too. “For those about to rock…for those about to roll’ drawls the singer over sloppy, cool riffs and cowbell accompaniment on the fantastic ‘Bad Tattoo’. The following ‘Dragons’ is full of instant, quirky melodies and fuzzy guitars, coming on like the perfect mash-up of Weezer and the Super Furries. Whether it’s actually about dragons is debatable, what’s not debatable is that it was the perfect single choice.
They veer into classic sounding 60’s pop territory and make it sound so effortless. ‘This Useless Love’ has Beach Boys/Everly Brothers vibes and ‘She’ is a glorious slab of 60’s pop with urgent beats, killer vocal harmonies and ripping guitar solos, coming on like Kula Shaker at their finest.
The trippy, prog fest that is ‘Situation Man’ is out there maaan! A full on Hammond organ jam out and elsewhere, ‘Fuzzy Lion’ mixes up a ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ drum beat with Silver Sun vocalisin’ in the most sublime of ways.
‘Let’s Move’ prove that Giuda and Biters aren’t the only cool cats to channel Thin Lizzy and Slade all in one double denim-clad 3-minute pop hit or two. Even the reggae-infused mid-section breakdown can’t detract from their ability to create songs that should be on 7 inch and riding high in the hit parade, pop pickers. Killer tuneage!
It’s no surprise that singer Luke Smyth has seemingly morphed into a young Jeff Lynne. Check out the likes of ‘Married Woman’ and the eccentricity of closer ‘Calendar Street’ with its immense ELO layered harmonies climax. I even had to YouTube and Google ‘Why Aren’t These People My Friends’ just to be sure, as I feel like I should already know it… I don’t and it’s ace!
It may be raining outside, but Ulysses bring the sunshine to your stereo with their new long player ‘On Safari’. I didn’t think they made the sort of drugs that could inspire this sort of music anymore, maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it’s just the Bath water (sic). But Ulysses has created a trippy, hippie-fied, love-fest of an album. A soundtrack to the summer we have yet to experience. And certainly one of the most entertaining albums you will hear this year.
Author: Ben Hughes