Now Or Never - Ultra Bullitt (Beast)/You Can't Be Serious - Ultra Bullitt (Beast)
Who says the French don't "get" rock and roll? There's plenty of evidence to the contrary - especially on these two albums from Brittany power trio Ultra Bullitt, who are coming to Australia in 2013 to show us how it's done.
Want a reference point? Ultra Bullitt is the sort of band that you could depend on seeing in any of hundreds of Aussie pubs on a Saturday night in the mid-1980s. For the younger patrons among you, here's how we rolled back then: The band would plug in. You'd throw back some beers. The band would kick your arse. You'd throw more beers. Thank you and goodnight. Everyone went home happy. Get up the next day and find your keys? More like find your car - hopefully not communing with a tree.
How times change. Look into a corner pub in Sydney, for example, and you're more likely to see a bank of poker machines, or your own reflection in the brass and polished wooden floor of a gentrified bistro. Rock and roll bands are so yesterday - unless you're playing the fey indie pop of which the national youth broadcaster is so enamoured. Enough bitching, rock's still twitching. Just Let's just move on.
Play these albums at volume and you'll notice a couple of things. The first point being that there's not much new in what Ultra Bullitt do. The second being that there doesn't have to be. They have the swagger and self assurance that only believing in the power of three chords can bring. Their influences are obvious - the MC5, The Hives, maybe Jet without the borrowed affectations, or The D4 with lots of garlic. It would be an insult to peg them as detritus from the so-called New Rock wave that suddenly appeared and then just as rapidly petered out in the mid-2000's. Their stuff rocks in a way that stamps it as "real".
Who couldn't agree with the sentiment of a song like "Turn Off Your Radio"? from 2009's "You Can't Be Serious"? The LP title comes from an outburst by onetime tennis enfant terrible John McEnroe and sits alongside "Why Do They Call It An Ambulance?" if you thought Ultra Bullitt have a sense of humour you'd be right. They also know how to pen a catchy tune. Try the breakneck twisted signature riff of "She Got It" for size, or the bouncy Hives-like "Super Mojo". "Give Me Five" shows they can do balls-out rock equally well with its sly nod to Rose Tattoo's "Nice Boys".
There are two long-players in the Ultra Bullitt back catalogue and for mine "You Can't Be Serious" edges out "Now Or Never" on songs and beefier production but really, it's such a near run thing it doesn't matter.
Being a three-piece there's plenty of room for guitarist Tom Gun to show off his chops. Chunky chording and tightly-wound solos abound. There are some guests adding guitar parts but they're not needed. Bassist Andy Grizzly handles the vocals adeptly and writes most of the songs. Drummer Matt Mesrine knows how to push the accelerator without extraneous fills.
A dozen songs make up the recent "Now Or Never" (2012) and hit the mark - hard. Tom Gun's guitar has a layer of polish stripped off. There's a lot to like about the jagged "What I Like" while "Never Shut Your Keiko" has equal parts of The Hives and the Ramones written all over it.
"Dark Boogie" is as advertised with a touch of jazz thrown in while "Sting Like A Bee" (these boys love their sport) steps into metal territory. Grizzly puts on his best Bon Scott for the vocal on "Running". That'll hold him in good stead in Australia. On the other hand, "Addictive Behaviour" is the mid-album pause for breath, a mid-paced tremelo-touched reflective number that clears Ultra Bullitt of any accusation of being one dimensional.
Ultra Bullitt may not change your life but they may well enhance it. If you don't "get it" you're probably into the wrong kind of music. Buy their LPs or CDs if you catch them on tour in Australia, otherwise click on the label links in the top line to procure their music. That's why we put them there.