Review: Ute – The Gambler EP (2010)
The percussion in “Innocent Tailor” hits you. Not in the, “Hey, listen to me” kind of way-but in the billy clubbed from behind, struck once again, then dragged away into the shadows of someone’s mind kind of way. If it doesn’t, “And he said, ‘I don’t care about money, sir!’ and split his head upon the table” would. The bombastic nature that the Oxford three-piece bludgeons a melody is reason enough to seize your attention. Once they have it, on opener “Innocent Tailor”, they toy with it through searing, swirling guitar and bemoaning near ghostly harmonies. You would think Ute is just being brash for brashness’ sake, until their chorused voices come together “under the spell of” the tailor in a sense of forlorn, fatalistic premonition. Had you not left at that point, The Gambler will keep you to till the end.
The band shares the same label as Johnny Foreigner, and it’s hard to find commonalities between the two more obvious than the superb drumming from Joe. While Ollie’s elongated singing soothes compared to the prior, Kiss Kiss meets The Detachment Kit, Joe uses the framework of drumsticks to the snare rim with spotted subtle cymbal hits that punctuate the song more than the forward bridge. Ollie’s voice echoes over an airy acoustic guitar chasm which sounds nearly like the ghost of Davey von Bohlen circa 2002.
“We Used to Be Friends” is brief, actually jolting so soon after the aforementioned harmonies, but “Brother” and “Bunker” effectively hedge the sound. By this point, “Tailor” has lost its sonic harshness, having grown worn to the acoustic rock, clearly rooted in folk, with no apprehension whatsoever to dabble creatively. “Brother” lacks the brazen grip other tracks use, yet provides an uplifting intermission before “Bunker”‘s leadened drums and lo-fi vocals create a droning, glum mud to unapologetically suck off your boots as you wade through towards the end. Once again the drums, which more often than not serve as the weight to a song, are so light due to rim clicks. The more you listen, the more you’re solaced by the drums than the singing or acoustic guitar.
I would not label Ute as folk, or indie rock, or even perhaps post-hardcore as I initially thought upon hearing “Innocent Tailor”. In fact, they teeter precariously amidst all three with little care or concern where they fall. The Gambler is loose, a wagon wheel with spokes threatening to dislodge and throw your wagon into that canyon. Till then, let the voice lull, drums keep you attentive, and bass reassure as this Oxford trio directs you through their own musical terrain.