Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#25 Everything Picture - Ultrasound

Original release date: April 1999.

Everything Picture ("The greatest album of the nineties" - NME) came as a double-CD in a gatefold sleeve. If you were sufficiently backward-thinking to buy the vinyl version (Vinyl wasn't retro yet back then, just dated) it came as a triple. What more proof do you want? Ultrasound were a prog band.

Yep. Prog punk. Or prog indie. Something like that. They had a huge sound, bombastic, overblown, lush. Just like their frontman, the imposing and inaccurately-named Tiny. Even in the late 90s, Ultrasound neither looked nor sounded the part when it came to pop-rock stardom but for a moment there it seemed like it was going to happen for them anyway.

I saw them twice on consecutive nights, playing small clubs in Bristol and Bath. They were touring as a double-header with Dawn of the Replicants, whose debut album One Head, Two Arms, Two Legs, might have made this list, had it had anything on it as good as Leaving Iota or Chesty Morgan, two magnificent tracks they relegated to the B-side of their Candlefire single. 

The two bands took it in turns to headline and naturally each outdid the other when they were in support. I'm glad I went both nights so I got to see them both at their best. I even managed a brief chat with bassist and backing singer Vanessa after the Bath show. I did that sort of thing back then.

Even in the confines of a rock pub, with a stage barely two feet off the ground, Ultrasound looked like a band made for the festival circuit. They had the songs, the attitude and the strut but most of all they had three superb vocalists, any and all of whom could easily have fronted the band. The too-infrequent moments when all three sang at once were just stunning.

Long as it is, Everything Picture is packed with strong songs. I found the fifteen minute noise storm of the title track a little self-indulgent but it was always more of a statement than a tune. Other than that, every track is a winner.

Ultrasound, for reasons I haven't delved into, decided to split up just as they were about to break big. They vanished for a decade and more before reforming and breaking all my rules about bands that quit by returning with an album (Play For Today) that's not only almost as good as anything they've done before but sounds as though they'd never taken the long break in the first place.

That one almost made the list, too. 

Later this year there's a boxset reissue of Everything Picture. As if the original wasn't enough, the new version adds two bonus discs of singles, b-sides and rarities and a live CD as well. After that, who knows? I feel they still have more songs in them.

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