I will warn you in advance: this will not be an objective, carefully considered critique. There will be no comparisons with similar artists, no eloquent tracts of prose or amusing metaphors, no rational contemplation of this record’s place in the sphere of contemporary guitar music. It will in fact barely qualify as a review. I am incapable of such things when it comes to Glaswegian lo-fi sci-fi cult heroes Urusei Yatsura.
Everybody has that band, that one band, whose music takes you beyond the realms of rational thought. That you will talk endlessly about, far past the point at which anyone is still paying attention. That you feel compelled to own every track they’ve ever released, in every format. A band that have soundtracked the highs and lows of your life, the loves, heartbreaks, triumphs and failures, and that have stayed with you as other obsessions have faded. For me, Urusei Yatsura are that band.
Ever since purchasing their only top 40 hit, ‘Hello Tiger’ (which reached number 40 in 1997), on a whim from a local record shop because I liked the cover and needed a third CD to complete their ‘3 singles for a quid’ bargain bucket offer, I’ve been hooked. Their mix of catchy indie-pop riffs, clever pop culture referencing lyrics and experiments with sound that utilised a mix of effects pedals, toy ray-guns and broken guitars from Woolworths perfectly fused the disparate directions that my musical tastes were pulling in at the time, and it wasn’t long before the entirety of their first two full-length albums We Are Urusei Yatsura and Slain by Urusei Yatsura were firmly lodged in my brain, where they have happily remained ever since.
Twenty years on from their debut LP Rocket Girl Records are set to release a retrospective collection of their BBC radio sessions. The tracks are selected from recordings made for John Peel, Steve Lamacq and Radio Scotland, with most of the material taken from the two aforementioned albums, the one exception being album closer ‘Dice/Nae Dice’, which was written specially for a Peel session in 1997.
We get the dark humour of nerd apocalypse ‘Slain By Elf’, the sci-fi delights of ‘First Day On a New Planet’, the thrashy, feedback strewn brilliance of ‘Exidor’ and the infectious roaring insanity of ‘Kewpies Like Watermelon’. All sound just as fresh today as they did two decades ago.
The session tracks capture the songs with a raw energy that sets them apart from the album versions, and I’ve found myself preferring the recordings of ‘Siamese’ and ‘Phasers On Stun’ to the familiar originals. Indeed all of the tracks collected here, though certainly familiar to anyone who knows the records, differ enough to make this more than just a completist’s shelf-filler.
Available as a digital download, CD or on lovely pink 12″ vinyl, You Are My Urusei Yatsura serves both as a shiny new gem for existing fans to treasure and an excellent starting point for the uninitiated to discover a truly wonderful band. They are my Urusei Yatsura, let them into your hearts and they could be yours too.
Review by Paul Maps