Ultrasound – the Scala, London

By Mark Youll | 12th November, 2012 | gig reviews, reviews |

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Boarding the stage to a overload of dry ice and enough applause to kill David Essex crackling over the house P.A, Ultrasound rejoiced the release of their first album in thirteen years by first delivering an oldie of their own "Cross My Heart", its familiar clash of creepy keyboard and slow, sledgehammer drumming only enflamed by frontman Tiny Wood's venomous vocal and bassist Vanessa Best fingering the sort of spacious, low-end quake typically reserved for a King Tubby all-nighter.

And it was a momentous moment for many. And given the group's hefty hiatus and the limited road-testing of their week-long-available LP, any suspense still swirling this packed-out club (or gnawing away at the more-obsessive lot cramming the lip of the stage) was cooled by Richard Green's crunching guitar riff into the first of the new songs "Welfare State", its prog-like jingle activating an arms aloft, word-for-word crowd sing-a-long that not only rid the band of their usual moody stage pouts momentarily, but hovered lively and loud across the rest of the set.

“for all of its spit and sneer "Same Band" still conjures an eerie mash-up of Pulp's "Disco 2000" and the theme from Star Wars”

Whilst a show still faithful to all the first-time-rounders that bought into the group’s grandiose, glammy rock between ’97 and ’99, it speedily transpired that for every scream for “Suckle”, “Floodlit World” or “Same Band” (which for all of its spit and sneer still conjures an eerie mash-up of Pulp’s “Disco 2000” and the theme from Star Wars),came equal squeals for current single “Beautiful Sadness”, the instantly-anthemic “Twins”, or “Between Two Rivers” a breathy new ballad lit by a sequenced brass band, some military-mannered drum tattoos,and a rarely serene Green throwing out his most convincing Dave Gilmour chops.

There were no arresting visuals, should you exclude Green’s Townshend-like windmills and maybe the passing peep of Tiny’s bare behind when his trousers give way during the country-clad “Deus Ex Natura”, one of many new songs to stress a widening versatility first found in early rarities like “Kurt Russell” and “Can’t Say No”, both of which (for this writer anyway) sadly absent tonight.

What was present though, was proof of the group’s appealing irregularity, knack for knocking out snappy pop, or spewing up sprawling suites like “Sovereign”, a song at first tranquil, twinkling with the sound of glockenspiel, soft guitar arpeggios and Tiny’s ethereal vocals, before swelling slowly towards its angry, epic, stadium-ready potential.

Not content on bowing out on such a climax, their big LP unveiling closed with gutsy rocker ” Goodbye Baby Amen” and, inevitably, their biggest gun (and hit) “Stay Young”. The former a mess of filthy drum fills and squelchy Hammond organ sweeps with all the punky momentum to mirror Oasis’ “Rock and Roll Star”, the latter naturally nabbing all the attention, leaving the crowd swaying and belting out it’s chorus, overly content this band is truly back, and with rock and roll still ringing in their ears.

Mark Youll