Ume Urgent Sea

[Pretty Activity; 2005]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: noise pop-rock, distortion pedal grunge indie
Others: Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead, Dead Meadow

Ume is a Texan trio fronted by singer/guitarist Lauren Langner Larson and her husband, bassist Eric Larson (so as not to short change him, a gentleman named Jeff Barrera plays drums). Other reviews Google-produced of their debut album Urgent Sea yielded lots of comparisons to Sonic Youth and early Blonde Redhead, and it's easy to see why. Like Kim Gordon, Langner Larson has a habit of gettin' a little crazy on the mic, but she plays guitar at least as well as Gordon does the bass and a helluva lot better than Kazu of Blonde Redhead does. The girl can shred, but her singing is pretty love-it-or-hate it. On songs like "My Sweet Time," in which the guitar work is less arresting than on some of the record's hotter jams, her screeching is downright grating.

But those guitars, they sound pretty good. "Wake," the album's opener, is likely the most dynamic song Ume here include. The song's melody makes a convincing case for the band to put Langner Larson's knack for tunefulness on at least equal footing with Urgent Sea's habit of diving into "Sabbath-like sludge," a sound the band aren't quite so well equipped to produce. Ume are too impatient to wallow in the side-spanning noise of Sonic Youth, and the aptly named "Push Me Pull U" proves that, musically at least, the Larsons don't gel as well as might be hoped. The slacker dude/crazy woman dynamic is similar to Moore/Gordon, but Lauren vocals are simply on another planet than her husband's. Nonetheless, Urgent Sea overcomes truly awful packaging (this was on the bottom of my reviewer's pile for a reason) and a fairly derivative sound on the strength of their influences and the force of will -- not to mention chops -- of a powerful frontwoman.

But, P.S. "A Maze?" "Umergency?" Urgent Sea??? If your band is considering shitty puns for song and album titles, please think twice. In fact, I knocked off half a point when I "got" the album title. Ugh.

1. Wake
2. A Maze
3. Hive Mind
4. Hurricane
5. Shake Down
6. My Sweet Time
7. Manic
8. Push Me Pull U
9. Umergency
10. Baby Xie-Xie

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