Naming your band ‘UUVVWWZ’ seems initially like an act of aggressive self-sabotage to rank alongside the infamous sandpaper sleeve that encased The Durutti Column‘s first album. But give it a chance: pronounce the name as the band intended – that’s ‘double-u, double-v, double-double-u, zee’ – and it takes on a nicely rhythmic quality.
All of which serves as a nice allegory for the experience of approaching the music of, and then listening to, UUVVWWZ. The band makes angular post-punk but, instead of the overweening seriousness that tends to characterise the genre (or, for that matter, Saddle Creek, the label to which they’re signed), the Nebraska-based act’s self-titled debut exhibits an infectious sense of fun. In post-punk terms, they’re much closer to Bow Wow Wow than they are to The Pop Group.
Over the course of the album vocalist and potential star-in-the-making Teal Gardner evokes several other female vocalists, as if she’s appearing on some obscure version of Stars In Their Eyes. On the catchy, vaguely shamanistic sounding opener Berry Can she sings in an awestruck manner similar to Blonde Redhead‘s Kazu Makino; on the more uptempo numbers such as Jap Dad and Green Starred Sleeve she yelps and stammers in a way that recalls The Slits‘ Ari Up or Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow. The band’s music – a twitchy combination of guitar, bass and drums – wraps itself tightly round the vocals to create a disciplined, minimalist sound.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the slower songs work the best. On Castle they decelerate to the pace of a lounge bar and, to mark the occasion, Gardner adopts a vaguely bluesy draw. It works better than it has any right to do. They pull off a similar trick on the closing brace of The Sun and Hum Jam, and end up sounding epic. The latter track is blessed with a languidly elastic bassline and Gardner’s least affected vocals, and it might just be the best of the album’s nine songs.
So, then, this is an album with a high hit rate. Having said that, any record which is composed primarily of yelps, whoops and hyperactive guitars is always liable to outstay its welcome. Even UUVVWWZ’s most ardent of fans will struggle to suppress a certain amount of relief when it’s all over. Right now, UUVVWWZ’s music might work better as a playlist livener than as a complete listening experience.
It always seems patronising to describe an album as ‘promising’ – after all, a listener approaches a work with the intention of being entertained, not to seek signs of where a band’s career is most likely to lead. Still, UUVVWWZ is undoubtedly promising, in the sense that the band have done the difficult part already, namely finding a signature sound. Now they just need to come up with the songs to match the distinctiveness of their instrumentation and that incredible name.