Music Reviews


(Saddle Creek Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

If you’re not willing to try saying the band’s name out loud, you’re probably not patient enough for the album itself. For all who are curious, it’s pronounced (all together now) “Double ‘U’, double ‘V’, double ‘W’ … ‘Z’.” No, really. Once you get the rhythm of it, though, the name becomes kind of catchy, like the world’s worst stadium chant. It’s the disc’s tenth song, in a way. Still, that’s asking an awful lot from the average fan, and UUVVWWZ is not looking for average fans – it’s aiming for a rabid cult following, and in this respect, it’s pretty brilliant. In both senses of the word, the name is unspeakable: unspeakably stupid and nearly impossible to say out loud for all but the initiated. It’s the spoken equivalent of a secret handshake. Word-of-mouth publicity will be a lost cause; only word-of-blog hyperbole will allow the band's survival. Try telling your friends about this group over the phone and you’ll see what I mean.

“Wait … what’s the band called again?”

“Please don’t make me repeat this. I’ll send you the link to the MySpace page.”

It would be sad if the name were more noteworthy than the music, but that is not the case. To get the most obvious comparison out of the way, UUVVWWZ sounds an awful lot like Deerhoof, which is fine because few bands have tapped that ore, rich as it is. Jap Dad, the most punk-influenced song on the album, sounds like a politically incorrect Deerhoof parody. Vocalist Teal Gardner slips between innocent cooing and screechy speak-singing, and the backing music is equally shrill, with the guitars pounding away at bar chords and inserting random bits of noise that sound like dolphins chirping through fuzz boxes and Auto-Tune software. Sounds annoying, right? But, if you give it a chance, the chorus becomes a sing-along.

Berry Can opens the album with a vocal hook that carries various lines of lyrical nonsense that could work as chants for a cult - and not the innocent fan-cult (“I love Harold and Maude!”), but the scary type (“I love virgin sacrifice!”). “I like the blackberries, 'cause they cannot entangle me,” Gardner repeats before guitarist Jim Schroeder crashes in with a minimalist riff that sounds like Black Sabbath filtered through four decades of noise rock. 

Some of the material is weirdness for its own sake. Trapezeus supports itself with a swirling guitar figure that would make Les Claypool seasick, and Neolaño’s progressions, quasi-biblical declarations, and natural imagery (“Each hour is a day to thee … Each night is a vice to thee … Likely a cave drained by the tide, wild moon to fill it.”) overstay their welcome by several minutes. The result is an enigmatic song that is one part creation myth and one part apocalyptic narrative. Either way, it drags like a paleontology lecture. On the other hand, it makes the piece that follows, the awesome Castle, sound even stronger.

Abrasive, art-school, and cryptic, UUVVWWZ is not for everyone. The moniker is more of a threat than a name, Gardner’s voice is too few degrees of separation from Yoko Ono for many people, and some of the lyrics would seem more down-to-earth if they were spoken in tongues (Shark Suit is the album's best example of the band turning absurdity into astonishing rock). Maybe UUVVWWZ is actually the initials for some university from the future, and it’s possible that’s why I feel I need to take the GRE before spinning this CD too many more times. Like a prestigious college, this band may receive more attention than it really deserves, but these art-punks truly have a lot going for them. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for anything this different.