How many bands out there only write good songs? There can’t be many. Back when they were still a Gainesville band, UV-TV cranked out two insanely solid albums of ultra-catchy DIY jams. The band never fit into any particular mold; they were pop-punk and garage rock and twee all at once, and their sound fit the sonic blueprint of the ’90s DIY underground more than the present-day one. Maybe that’s why they’ve persistently flown under the radar despite insane levels of consistency. For their third album, UV-TV have relocated from Gainesville to Queens. They’ve lost a couple of band members and brought in a new drummer. They’ve changed their sound, going for something slower and sleeker than the fired-up attack of their early records. And they still refuse to write any songs that are anything less than good.
On their new self-produced LP Always Something, UV-TV lean into the sticky, tuneful jangle of some of the best bands from the late-’80s and early-’90s UK indie scene. In their woozy layers of guitar and their sticky hooks, I hear echoes of the Pastels or the Primitives or the House Of Love. There’s some of the stuff I used to hear on late-night DC alt-rock radio in there, too, like Velocity Girl or Tuscadero. UV-TV presumably know those references, and they’ve got a clear affection for bands from that era; the last thing that they put out before starting up the Always Something album rollout was a Jesus And Mary Chain cover. But all those bands were making albums out of their record collections, too, so maybe UV-TV are simply tapping into some eternal out-of-time sense of indie-pop wistfulness — a feeling that’s existed in music for longer than indie-pop itself.
Singer and bassist Rose Vastola has one of those effortlessly cool voices, a breezy deadpan that’s still capable of conveying great longing or exhilaration when the moment calls for it. She can sound elegantly bored, and she can also make the state of elegant boredom sound fun, a rare gift. Guitarist Ian Bernacett surrounds that voice with riffs that sparkle and soar. It would probably be overstating things to say that his waves of sound evoke Johnny Marr, but that’s who I think of when I focus on them. Just as important, UV-TV songs always have a beat. They shimmy. The songs have hooks, and they have a vibe, too — a buzzy giddiness that keeps up even when the band slows down.
On past records, UV-TV have led with pop-punk bangers that eventually give way to dream-pop lullabies. That structure is still in place on Always Something, but the two sides of the band’s sound are a little more integrated with one another. The faster songs on Always Something sounds more smooth and contemplative and melodically rich, while the slower ones sound more locked-in. Everything hangs together.
Always Something isn’t going to change your life. The stakes here aren’t that high. It’s a short album, over in less than half an hour. None of the lyrics have grabbed me by the collar and shaken me around yet. Some of the songs blur into one another a bit, though I maintain that “Back To Nowhere” would be a straight-up hit in a more just world. The pleasures here are familiar, comforting. Rather than challenging you, UV-TV sound like they’re trying to make a bunch of songs that will sound amazing on a sunny day when you’ve got your car windows down. That’s a noble goal, and they’ve succeeded brilliantly. There are nine songs on Always Something. None of them are bad. All of them are good. The streak continues.
Always Something is out 5/28 on PaperCup Music.
Other albums out this week:
• DMX’s Exodus.
• black midi’s Cavalcade.
• Bachelor’s Doomin’ Sun.
• Lou Barlow’s Reason To Live.
• Moby’s Reprise.
• Kele’s The Waves Pt. 1.
• Needles//Pins’ self-titled album.
• Palette Knife’s Ponderosa Snake House & The Chamber Of Bullshit.
• Dwyer, Sawyer, Kerlin, Dolas, Caulkins, Malone, Rodriguez, Boye, Soubiran, Myers-Ionita, Renteria’s Moon Drenched.
• A. G. Cook’s Apple Vs. 7G.
• Can’s Live In Stuttgart 1975.
• Drug Church’s Tawny EP.
• The Bruce Lee Band’s Division In The Heartland EP.
• Gwar’s The Disc With No Name EP.