Ahh. I think that the next time somebody comes up to me and tells me there's no good music in Houston, I'm gonna have to tie them to the couch and put this on the CD player. I've seen Ultramagg several times live, and they're damn good, so it shouldn't really surprise me that this CD hooked me from the very start -- I think I'd have to say that these guys are my favorite band in town right now, and this album will hopefully make it far enough that other folks decide the same thing, too. The whole thing's filled with brainwashingly catchy, melodic, interesting indie-rock of the best kind -- the general sound is kinda reminiscent (to me, at least) of Dear You-period Jawbreaker a lot of the time, but they've also got a poppy sense of melody that brings it all closer to the first Weezer album. There's also a good bit of an emo influence here, esp. in the start-stop rhythms and in singer/guitarist Nathan Parsons' sometimes-strained vocals (not real surprising, since they're all apparently big fans of fellow emo-ish Houstonians Blueprint), and I can definitely hear some Superchunk-ish guitar lines and vocal melodies, as well. Despite the influences, though, I can't really pin this one down as a soundalike -- these guys have created their own loud, beautiful sound, and it's pretty damn cool.
By the way, I should probably warn folks looking for dark, moody indie-rock that they might want to look for it somewhere else -- Ultramagg are melancholy at times, and plaintive and innocent at others, but overall there's a "hopeful" feeling to this album. And every song is pretty much a love song, or at least an anti-love song, all the way from the triumphant track "I'm in Love" to the album's closer, the intensely sad and bitter (and absolutely amazing) "Row Away" (which I guarantee I'll be listening to nonstop the next time I get dumped).
As for the rest of the album, here's a quick run-through: "Downer" puts aside the pop-punk stuff for a bit and is more of a neat little pop song than anything else (complete with ska-ish guitar); "Somedays" and "You Wish I Was Dead" are midtempo longing-for-love indie-rockers; "I Can't Believe Me" features a fucking brilliant two-guitar bit that's almost up there with aMINIATURE's "Physical Climber" for headphone-wearing coolness; of all the tracks on here, "Mayflowers" and "Jason's Theme" are probably two of the more emocore of the bunch, with lots of those wacky start-stop parts; "Tissue" is a frantic, impassioned and sweet love song; and the extra "hidden" track, "Runaway Dave," is a nice Sugar-influenced bit of pop-punk (it's apparently a song the band used to do back when they were known as Pull My Finger).
To be honest, there's not a song on here that doesn't get my feet and head bopping along; it's all that cool. Here's hoping maybe someone over at the Buzz takes a listen and realizes the same thing. (JH)
(Less Than Records -- P.O. Box 1030, Magnolia, TX. 77353; Ultramagg@aol.com)