sun 15/12/2019

CD: U-Bahn - U-Bahn | reviews, news & interviews

CD: U-Bahn - U-Bahn

CD: U-Bahn - U-Bahn

Got a hankering for early Devo? Look no further

U-Bahn: they know what they are doing

Despite their name, U-Bahn are from Melbourne. Instead of looking to Germany for their musical inspiration, their minds are on a vintage band from Ohio. “Beta Boyz”, the first track on their eponymous debut album, reassembles the key elements of Devo’s version of “(I Can’t Get no) Satisfaction”. The chicka-chicka tick-tock guitar is present. So too are the throat-swallowing Mark Mothersbaugh vocals, the rotating tin-can drums and primitive synth.

Next up, “Turbulent Love” does a similar job by hybridising Devo’s “Mongoloid” and “Whip it”. “War of Currents” borrows from the de-evolutionist's “Auto Modown”. The album's final track is “Time Warps Makes the Sweetest Sound” (sic). Apparently then, for U-Bahn, a time warp does make the sweetest sound.

Reactions to U-Bahn are going to be defined by whether they are seen as colossally cheeky or essentially redundant as their album says little – despite the odd contemporary tag – which hasn’t been said before. Beyond the borders of Devonia, “Right Swipe” is about internet-enabled sex and “Beta Boyz” takes a pop at clichés of masculinity. Suggestions of other voices come with nods towards Ariel Pink in "Right Swipe" and the waggish warping of pre-Beatles pop in "Time Warps Makes the Sweetest Sound". Even so, one shadow looms large: that of Devo.

The band members are seemingly in their twenties. The cut-off point for the model of Devo they’re looking to is 1979 or 1980 – some 40 years ago; a period when this template was on the up for their parents or grandparents. Irrespective of how they got to where they are, U-Bahn obviously know what they are doing and do it with aplomb. Whether this is a one-off art project or the starting gun on a full-on campaign to revive the Ohio Spud Boys is impossible to tell. For now though, on U-Bahn’s UK release it’s probably best to go with the flow and enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

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