Saturday, 5 April 2014

Ume "Monuments"

 It was in a recent Guitar World issue - the one that counted the top 50 Eric Clapton moments - that featured a small article on Texas rock band Ume. It was then that I was first gained knowledge that such a band existed, and to top it all off they were mere weeks away from releasing their album Monuments. I checked them out right away; their song Black Stone was not hard to find on YouTube, and I knew immediately that this was going to be big.

Just a trio; Lauren on vocals/guitar, her husband Eric on bass and Rachel, their drummer, but I couldn’t believe the power that just these three people could produce. Needless to say I was first in line to order Monuments the day it came out, and once it came out, my expectations were pleasantly exceeded. Starting with the previously mentioned Black Stone, a hard guitar riff driven track, slow at first but flawlessly and effortlessly transitioning in to an all out storm. Lauren’s perfectly imperfect vocals hard not to love, and the obvious ability to write songs not equivalent to really any that I can think of.

Actually I love the thousands of ways I can describe their sound. One may call them indie, maybe even modern stoner rock. I don’t know if they would subscribe to any of these titles, frankly, it’s just good old hard rock. Actually their sound reminds me of many of the rock duos I’ve been hearing lately, the ones with just a guitar and drummer such as Indian Handcrafts who maintain a really loud sound, only Ume actually has a bass player to properly fill out the sound, making for the feel of a real band, and not just a couple of people jamming on record.

Embrace sounds alternative, kind of Foo Fighters-ish; its pace is more consistently fast, unlike Black Stone, but it rocks equally as hard. Too Big World adds in the sound of keyboards, broadening our idea of the capabilities of the band as songwriters while Chase It Down goes back to the slow and doomy pace of Black Stone, but again speeds up toward the end, again making the easy transition; this time thanks to a jam break by the band that helps the song pick up intensity with ease.

The albums variety of relatively different sounding songs continues with Until The End, which by this point is the slowest paced song on the album once again picking up intensity, this time again thanks to a jam break that ends the song. Barophobia however maintains a slow pace throughout, even slower than Until The End at its slowest. Barophobia may be my favourite song on the album, with its curiously unorthodoxly played acoustic guitar, and the simply incredible harmonies that Lauren sings. The only other song on Monuments that is comparable to Barophobia is Within My Bones; this time a completely acoustic song, more poetic than anything, with some electric guitars added for some flavour, but not entirely noticeable.

It’s during the song Revival that I can start to make out some punk influence. The song isn’t a punk song, nor is the band really a punk band, but essentially my point is that no matter what Ume has thrown at its listeners to this point, it’s hardly been the same thing twice. Gleam, Oh Fate and Barricade are no exception to the awesome sound and song writing abilities by the band, all three have memorable guitar riffs and guitar tones that just mesh so well with everything else going on around them.

The album ends with Reason. The reason I find this to be a significant ending to the album is that, just like Too Big World, the song is just so well written, with more than just loud guitars, but also the very present sound of piano that adds an inspirational sound to the track. This doesn’t stop the song from completely rocking though. I’m not sure it’s one of the best songs on the album; there isn’t anything wrong with it, just that I do think there are better songs on the album, but I don’t disagree with the bands choice at all to end Monuments with Reason. It features the same guitar riffs, the same pounding drums, the same everything, just with a little added flavour.

Really what we have in Ume is a modern day jam band, which is obvious by the number of jam breaks they take in some songs. As essential as the guitars are to Monuments and the band in general, there isn’t a guitar solo that stands out as much as the raw energy of the band playing together in just the most comfortable sounding of ways. The originality is there, disguised in something that any rock fan would like, which is key to any bands success. Personally I love the classic rock vibe from the band. They remind me of one of my favourite bands Thin Lizzy, while I’m sure Ume wouldn’t site them as an influence, I can’t help to love the same things in Ume that I love in Thin Lizzy; effortless vocals, simple yet genius guitar riffs, (her heavy use of single note riffs rather than always playing chords also reminds me of Thin Lizzy's first guitarist Eric Bell) and just completely badass rock and roll. That’s what Ume are, just badass rock and roll. Definitely the best album released so far in 2014.


Black Stone” –­ It’s impossible to mention why this song is the highlight without mentioning the songs transition to slow doom metal track to practically a thrash song with the snap of a finger. But that shouldn’t take away from the vocals, just like so many other songs on the album they are, as I said previously “perfectly imperfect” really because they don’t sound like they belong in a hard rock song (Lauren's voice reminds me of a slightly more damaged Emily Haines of Metric), yet I can’t imagine this song/band any other way, and I can’t imagine this song being better with any other vocalist. Then there is the guitar playing; the guitar riff is the most addicting to the brain on the whole album, and the music break/guitar solo is what I’d consider the catchiest on the album.



9.5 (Out of 10)


Track List:

Black Stone
Too Big World
Chase It Down
Until the End
Oh Fate
Within My Bones


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