So this, Uglier Than They Used Ta Be (out now on Metalville/UKJ Records), is the first full length record from UGLY KID JOE in almost 20 years?!? It’s a crime it’s taken this long! Fully funded by fans via the pledgemusic.com website the now seven-piece band (a.k.a. “Seven Headed Monster”) have delivered an excellent slab of vinyl. There’s really not a bad song to add to the volume of work of this band (four full length albums and two EP’s).
“Hell Ain’t Hard to Find” has a FOO FIGHTERS feel and although a decent song, I question why it led off this effort. “Let the Record Play” has a grungy guitar hook at its core and if you close your eyes and listen to the words and delivery, you might hear the influence of OZZY on this song. In fact, when I close my eyes and listen and I can hear OZZY actually singing this song. No drugs were involved in the review of this album. “Bad Seed” has a definite METALLICA-inspired riff that pervades the track, courtesy of guitarists Klaus Eichstadt, Sonny Mayo, and Dave Fortman. “No one ever believed in me/ I never believed in myself”; lyrics about overcoming mental barriers resonate well with me and by the time the blistering guitar solos kick this song into thrash gear, I am already singing along. But I can’t deliver with the power that Whitfield Crane unleashes on this track. This is a powerful song and the tone has been set for this record.
“Mirror the Man” and “She’s Already Gone” are good songs but not standouts while “Nothing Ever Changes” is an acoustic ditty with some of my favorite lyrical content on the entire record. The next three songs are some of the best on the disc: “My Old Man”, “Under the Bottom” and the first cover song on the release, “Ace of Spades” by none other than MOTÖRHEAD. The coolest thing about these is that Phil Campbell contributes guitar work to them all and -no disrespect to Eichstadt, Mayo, and Fortman- these three songs sport the best fretwork found anywhere on this record. “My Old Man” features a SLAYER-like guitar lick reminiscent of “South of Heaven” and then a frenetic solo breaks out and the song is over. Good enough. “Under the Bottom” starts and stops and doesn’t have a great flow to me but the exceptional guitar work by Campbell et al is undeniably heavy and dirty with a harmonic layering of guitars to close out the song as it finishes much stronger than it starts.
I love a good cover song. There are two on this record. Campbell is featured on “Ace of Spades”. The rhythm section of Cordell Crockett (bass) and drummers Zac Morris and Shannon Larkin deserve kudos here for their work as they stay true to this classic and deliver a version sure to mak smile. “The Enemy” reminds me of an old ALICE COOPER song, but the lyrical hook of “the enemy is us/the enemy will bring you down/ the enemy will make a sound that you’ve never heard before” speaks to me. This is a dark record and this song fits that bill as well as anything on there. Don’t forget the amped up reprise here where the chorus is delivered one more time at about 150 mph!!
Finally, we come to the second cover song on the record and this one features vocal help from Australia’s own chart-topping vocalist DALLAS FRASCA. I LOVE this song. A Motown classic “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” originally performed by THE TEMPTATIONS, is a groovy, funky number that UGLY KID JOE puts their mark on. A great closer to the record; a record that finishes stronger than it starts.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Let the Record Play”, “Bad Seed”, “My Old Man”, “Ace of Spades”, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”