By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
The Medicine Label
When UFOFU started out, lead singer Joe Butcher was living in his van, pawning his guitar every other week, battling a serious problem with heroin, and giving guys blow-jobs in public parks to support himself. And yet to talk to him, you'd have thought everything was just dandy. That's always been Butcher's greatest strength as well as his biggest downfall--and it's what characterizes UFOFU's music.
While the rest of the alt-rock world is busy scouring over its childhood, looking desperately for something to validate its unhappiness, Butcher has been absorbed in a hellish reality, looking for something to smile about.
The 13 songs on UFOFU's self-titled major-label debut reflect that struggle, as well as some of the best punk-pop songwriting to come down the pipes since the Meat Puppets and Bleach-era Nirvana. In an age when guitar simplicity tends to mask incompetence, UFOFU again reverses the flow, employing complicated chord and melody changes with deceptive simplicity. Like any good professionals, they make it look easy, but it ain't.
Songs like "Legendary Microwave" and "King of Sex" contain a range of musical influences from country to jazz, beach bop to hardcore punk, all patched together in a smooth-riding mothership of desperately upbeat pop. "Legendary Microwave" finds Butcher sounding like an auctioneer warming a burrito at a 7-Eleven somewhere in a weird corner of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The great thing is that when he sings "someone is sleeping in my yard/25 miles off the ground," he could well be telling the truth.
Bassist Brandon Curtis shares in both vocal and songwriting duties on the album, and unlike most debuts where a band member doubles as vocalist, Curtis' contributions are positive. Though he should refrain from using quite so much teenage snarling, Curtis rounds out Butcher's sleazy sarcasm with nice-guy sincerity. "The Skies Magnify Me"--where Butcher and Curtis' vocals meld perfectly--is a prime example.
Ben Curtis, the 18-year-old brother of Brandon, should get either a gold medal or a swift kick in the ass for the level of drumming he's achieved, depending upon whether or not you're prone to envy. Undoubtedly the album's brightest moment comes during the slacker/junky anthem "Nothing Always," one of UFOFU's many weird twitches. You can just picture a bunch of down-and-out skateboarders holding hands and singing, "the nothing of always" joyfully, with a cheesy-looking plastic utopian sunset fading in the background.
Don't be surprised one bit if MTV comes down from the skies and zaps UFOFU to a galaxy far, far away. This is definitely one of the best releases of the year.