Urusei Yatsura - Slain by Urusei Yatsura
THEY SAID IT COULDN'T HAPPEN. AND THOUGH IT SEEMED as likely as Mogwai recording an album of sensitive rock ballads or Ash a jazz fusion LP, we can confirm that it is true; Urusei Yatsura - officially the most indie band in the world - have made a pop record.
Of course the Glaswegian slackers have done it in the most tasteful way possible. With 'Slain By...', their second LP, they've ditched just enough of their terminally unambitious lo-fi tendencies to appeal to people who like music, while maintaining enough moments of skewed imagination not to have every fanzine writer in the world screaming, "Judas!"
The clues that this improbable transformation might happen have been there for quite some time. Last year's 'Strategic Hamlets' single had a big "na na na" chorus that must have had Travis seething with envy, while more recent effort 'Hello Tiger' was an enormous squelching rock beast entirely at odds with their 500-only, green vinyl-only, seven-inch-recorded-in-a-dustbin past.
And sure enough, 'Slain By...' is their lo-fi supernova; a record untainted by irritating in-jokes and maddening noise collages. Whether this has happened by accident or design is unclear for a while. The roistering blast of 'Superfi' is as succinct a restatement of the indie ethic as one could imagine, as Fergus Lawrie snarls: "I've got my anorak/I've got my six-pack/I've got my fanzine/So f?? the music scene". And, slightly later on, the loser's credo of: "If you're in fashion then you know there's gotta be something wrong."
But, playful little imps that they are, Urusei Yatsura are only toying with us. In fact, they have discovered the truth - that endlessly circling the same venues, selling the same number of records to the same people, is a life worse than death. Sure enough, the grandstand finale of 'Amber' speaks of just such an epiphany, with Lawrie gently addressing a world where "everything you say just slips into the dark and falls away". That's indie for you.
And as a consequence, 'Slain By...' is an album of focus and sassy intelligence, with precious few deviations from 'the point', which is to make brash pop songs full of elegantly slack vowels and perfectly chiselled guitar edges. The iridescent 'Fake Fur' bristles with devil-may-care, switchblade glamour, while 'Slain By Elf' has the metallic sheen of Megadeth, the manic intensity of Idlewild and the voluptuous pop curves of, oh sod it, the Stereo-bastard-phonics.
So, in the great gameshow of pop, Urusei Yatsura have decided not to settle for the teasmade and risk it all for the helicopter. And with an album of such verve and vivacity as 'Slain By...' you'd almost fancy their chances.
Mark my words, it'll be Cornershop next.