Monday, October 27, 2014

A Review Of The Fantastic Debut Album From Ultimate Painting (Mazes, Veronica Falls)

The debut album from Ultimate Painting is finally out this week and now it's time to review it after playing tracks from this all last summer. But, really, what can I say?

I mean, the world doesn't need 500 words from me to sing the praises of this record. Ultimate Painting by Ultimate Painting is out on Tuesday on the excellent Trouble in Mind label. It's nearly perfect. I guarantee you that this release from James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes) will end up on a lot of year-end "best of" lists in a few months.

These two cats have masterfully crafted a slew of songs that recall the very best things in your record collection. And if that sounds like a back-handed compliment...I'm sorry. But, look, back in the 1980s, fans of The Feelies knew that those guys sounded a bit like the Velvet Underground and were fine with that fact. So if I sit here and type that Ultimate Painting sound like both The Feelies and VU, then how is that a bad thing?

It's not. It's a fantastic compliment.

Jack Cooper and James Hoare have taken some very hearts-on-the-sleeve-level love for those earlier acts and made something magical. One listen to "Ten Street" ought to convince you of that fact.

The similarly sounding title song is another slice of near-perfect indie rock which mines a similar vein of musical goodness. This is understated and effortless perfection.

I don't want to make it sound as if it's all Feelies-doing-VU here. No. "Riverside" recalls the very best moments of The Left Banke with its lush lyricism. "Can't See You", in a pleasant surprise, brings to mind Graham Coxon's down-tempo stuff on early Blur releases.

But the highlight of the record for me is perhaps "Rolling in the Deep End" where those other influences are paired with hints of The Byrds and even Rain Parade. The song's critique of "instant gratification" comes in on waves of vocals as the guitars chime and ripple underneath. It's an astonishingly melodic piece of work on an already highly melodic record.

"Three Piers" throws the very faintest hint of Syd-era Pink Floyd into the mix while the wildly catchy "Jane" adds in some hooks worthy of The Chills to pair those Sixties influences up with some very cool Flying Nun Records ones.

"She's a Bomb" edges nearer to Bob Dylan briefly and album closer "Winter in Your Heart" unexpectedly recalls Super Furry Animals -- "Fire in Your Heart", 'natch -- and ends the record on a bit of understated loveliness.

Extraordinarily tuneful and expertly executed, the debut record from Jack Cooper (Mazes) and James Hoare (Veronica Falls) as Ultimate Painting is one of the very best things I've heard all year. Put any of these tracks on and be transported back to an era when songcraft was cherished. Like Wooden Aquarium by Mazes, Jack Cooper's other band at the moment, Ultimate Painting in some wonderful way bridge the styles of a pre-grunge heyday of American alternative rock -- think Let's Active in their mellower moments, or Game Theory in theirs -- with the DIY ethos of the best C86 bands. And that bridging is going on along with an undercurrent of real -- not revivalist -- reverence for the tunesmiths -- The Zombies, The Left Banke, The Cyrkle, The Beau Brummels -- of the 1960s.

Ultimate Painting by Ultimate Painting is out tomorrow on Trouble in Mind Records.

Follow the band on their Tumblr site.