Ugly Beats – Motor!

January 01, 1970

(Get Hip)


The Ugly Beats, out of Austin, party like it’s 1965 on their
third full-length Motor!.  Joe Emery, the band’s singer and main
songwriter, has a high, romantic way with a verse, sounding at times like a
lonely cowboy (“See”), at others like a mop-topped British invader (on the Neil
Diamond cover “You’ll Forget”). Jeanine Attaway, she of the knee-high go-go
boots, adds a lush swirl of organ sound to the whole enterprise, a sustained
texture that does much to smooth over rackety exuberance of guitar, drums and
bass. And about those guitars, two of them, one manned by Emery, the other by
Jake Garcia. They oscillate between hard fuzz and soft jangle, but always
pursue satisfyingly symmetric riffs. In fact, the guitar lines are not so much
predictable as inevitable. They go exactly the way that they have to go — from
the first ringing power chord to the last baroque flourish.  


All this is a way of saying that the Ugly Beats won’t
surprise you, but they just might win you over with sheer high spirits, strong
melodies and lovability.  How can you
resist, after all, the criss-crossing call and response of “Harm’s Way,” with a
bit of a yodel breaking out of minor-key harmonies?  Or the way the brash, distorted surf guitar
in “All Comes Back” supports sweetness and yearning in the vocals?  The Ugly Beats have made a science out of the
question of how much abrasion makes the over-sugary tolerable, and they mostly
hit the balance.  Only late entry “Funny
Girl” actually turns too cute for its own good, mired in a wash of cough syrupy
sweetness. Still most of these tracks could curdle like that quite easily. The threat is always there hovering in the


The best cuts are mid-album in the driving, surf-tinged
instrumental “Motor!”, which sounds like Link Wray in an uncharacteristic sunny
mood, and the jokey “Beeline”, which steals its ending from Rimsky-Korsakov’s
“Flight of the Bumblebee.” Both are peppy, super-melodic and lighthearted, a
sort of band-man’s holiday that everyone in the Ugly Beats seems to be enjoying.
Yet both are also hard-edged enough to stand repeated listens. They’re fun, but
not throw away fun.


The Ugly Beats are in no way inaccessible, but even so, they
will probably only appeal to a certain segment of the music-listening world:
the people who don’t mind, and even enjoy, contemporary music that sounds like
it could have been recorded 40 years ago. If you could never get enough of
early Beatles, Kinks, Zombies and Who – not to mention the hundreds of bands
who have followed them from then up to now — here’s another pretty good batch.



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