Ultranova / Decoys

Thekla, Bristol on Mon 3rd Mar 2008

I can't help feeling that Ultranova deserve a little more than they're getting from life.

More than being ignored by drunk students at this Monday night UWE student union election party on the Thekla, more than sloppy, feedback-heavy sound and more than the desperately lumpen, unambitious support act Decoys, who plod through a handful of fairly inoffensive but one-paced Stereophonics-lite numbers before ambling off to, well, no response.

Having formed at the tail end of last year from the wreckage of two previous Bristol bands, the modish-looking Ultranova have worked tirelessly and quickly and are steadily building a reputation around the city on the back of some extremely promising gigs and a timely 'Venue' interview last month.

Treading a fine line between zeitgeist-cuddling electro and more traditionally-crafted songs, Ultranova are doing something genuinely interesting, with driving force programmer, keyboardist and occasional singer Steve Smith at the controls and the under-stated, ultra-tight Jim Cottrell, surely one of the best bassists on the Bristol scene at the moment, holding everything together.

The jewel in the crown is androgynous singer Tom Smith, a caged animal with an angel's voice strapped, metaphorically, to a 30-tonne wrecking ball. He prowls the stage, is constantly restless between songs and from his tortured expressions he appears a man not just in his element behind the microphone, but in serious need of the release it brings him.

Tonight they open with probably their most accessible song, 'The Games We Play', slightly resembling The Bravery's 'Honest Mistake', but without the shit parts...

They demonstrate some refreshing ideas, a fine grasp of melody and bucket-loads of modesty and humility during an entertaining and reasonably diverse set.
Strangers From Another Star' he appears almost embarrassed, apologetic even, as he sings bashfully with one hand tucked into a pocket. That's something he'll need to address if bigger audiences are to follow.

'Down And Out In The City' is thrashed out with relish, teetering on the brink of being a fairly predictable Oasis-like tub-thumper before the synths save the day and lift it away from danger like a forgotten Stooges track strapped to a Cooper Temple Clause-powered howitzer.

When Ultranova steer clear of more prosaic writing by numbers there's something of real talent and invention at play and in 'Sol Jacker' they wheel out a brilliantly catchy, seedily observational piece of work which sounds far and away their strongest song tonight.

They finish with 'Your Lucky Night' and a captivating performance from singer Tom, while guitarist Rob (Steve's brother, but no relation to Tom - confused yet?) chops out sharp, clean chords. Evoking some of Jarvis Cocker and Brett Anderson's most sleazy moments, Tom prowls again, working the by now heavily inebriated audience for all they're worth and unleashing that fantastic vocal range to maximum effect.

If Ultranova make the right choices and develop more songs of the quality they're no doubt capable of then it's likely they'll soon be playing to more attentive audiences than this and perhaps getting a little bit more of what they deserve.

article by: 45

published: 06/03/2008 17:31


sorry, we currently have no gigs listed for this act.

more about Ultranova
more about Decoys
more about Thekla, Bristol