UGLY KID JOE - Uglier Than They Used Ta Be // 7/10
It’s a long time since we’ve heard from Ugly Kid Joe, with the exception of 2012’s EP “Stairway To Hell”, which was their first release since reforming in 2010, their last full album was 1996’s “Motel California” which failed to chart anywhere except in the UK - and that only managed a highest position of #128. So, let’s have a listen and see if they can recapture any of the magic from their early days when they went double-platinum in the US with their first album, “America’s Least Wanted”
First track on the album, “Hell Ain’t Hard to Find”, seems to be straight out of the Foo Fighter’s playbook - I found it very similar in tone to The Foo’s “Learn To Fly”. Having said that, it’s not entirely a bad thing as it’s a cracking song to open the album and a little lighter than what follows…
Second track, “Let the Record Play”, is a little more alt-metal/grungy or maybe a bit stoner, and wouldn’t be out of place on a Queens of the Stone Age album. Definitely a heavier sound with a catchy riff and one of the stronger tracks on the album.
“Bad Seed” is nice ‘n’ sleazy, reflecting on the inner struggle for redemption. “I didn’t find God in Jesus, the devil was my only friend”
“Mirror of the Man” has a much more mellow, sludgy sound. It bored me first time out, but subsequent listens redeemed it for me when you listen to the lyrics, which are rather dark and will chime with anyone who despairs at the state of the world today. Make sure you have no sharp objects near by when listening to it!
“She’s Already Gone” has a soft and gentle opening which makes way for a more uptempo heavier track reflecting on a relationship ending… “This life is over now...Don’t you want to see it die.” Cheerful! Nice riff and guitar solo, though!
“Nothing Ever Changes” is a great song, nice and slow and simple with lyrics remembering the past and reflecting on how things stay the same. However, I couldn’t help feeling that it needed a guitar solo or something to break up the steady pace of the song - it felt like a very long intro with no pay off.
“My Old Man” picks up the pace again with a nice heavy blast of drums and guitars to wake you up. This song is all about disappointment in a father who didn’t live up to expectations… There’s a lot of angsty stuff on this album - relationship breakup, disappointment, despair with the world, etc.
“Under the Bottom” picks up the pace even more with a great bass line and some great “noodling” towards the end
The “Ace of Spades” cover is pretty darn good - there’s not much I can add to the millions of words that have already been written about this song, but UKJ certainly do it justice.
“The Enemy” is very much old school UKJ, slightly reminiscent of “Cat’s in the Cradle”. Well, it made me think of that song, anyway! The last minute of the track is a much faster and heavier rendition of the theme of this song - there’s should have been much more of this speed and urgency throughout the album for it to tick the boxes for me.
I have to say, on first listen the album didn’t do much for me apart from the stellar Foos-inspired opening track, which is an instant winner, but having listened to it a few times it has grown on me. I don’t think it will be setting the charts on fire, but it’s a worthy addition to your library if you want something sleazy playing in the background while you’re having a bath.
Standout tracks are definitely “Let the Record Play”, “Bad Seed”, “Under the Bottom” and “The Enemy”. Actually, opener “Hell Ain’t Hard to Find” is also pretty darn good and a special mention for the “Ace of Spades” cover. In fact, I liked most of the album which is testament to the fact it grows on you with repeated listens!
So, to answer my original question - yes, they are as good as they were back in the early days!
P.S. I’ve only just discovered UKJ’s cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and this is stonkingly good! Check it out!
Reviewer: Simon Mills