SINGLE REVIEW: Up The Bug - Killin Time
Nothing ever beats Bristolians
With the national quarantine cancelling their tours and single releases, Bristol noise-makers Up The Bug found themselves locked away from producer Sam Friar and their recording studio for the foreseeable future. There was only one option left. Loading up a van with an audio interface, all their instruments and two hundred beers, the ska-rock quartet decided to make the most out of their enforced isolation and began their mission to record music all on their own.
Spoiler alert: they killed it.
Hoping to breathe an air of musical positivity into the current pandemic, new track 'Killin Time' demonstrates everything there is to love about this South West ska/rock fusion. Taking aim at the crisis we find ourselves in, Up The Bug engage with every aspect of our uncomfortable circumstances and present to the world an energetic track that brings some well-needed light to these difficult times. Stitching together acoustic and electric guitars, ska upbeats and a melodica solo (!!!) imagine Up The Bug as a West Country interpretation of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - but with a great deal more songwriting creativity, and a far more talented vocalist.
As soon as UTB's frontman Jay Hawkins begins singing on the track it is immediately clear that the singer possesses a naturally exceptional vocal tone. Combining gruff gravel with genuine vocal power, Hawkins electrifies the track with a distinct delivery of brightly written lyrics. Satirising the wider responses to the current crisis, Hawkins' ability to see the lighter side of this epidemic manages to straddle the difficult line between respecting the gravity of the situation, while still poking fun at some of the UK's awful reactions to the disease:
"They shut the venues down
I heard the bats to blame
Slap on a surgeon's spit shield
Make sure to dodge chow mein"
Always trust Bristolians to hit the nail on the head. Jimbo Buswell's versatile drum contributions perfectly suit each moment of the tune, switching from heavy snared syncopation to soft cymbals and preventing 'Killin Time' from ever feeling stagnant or repetitive. Max Lee's solo guitar tone is perfectly complimentary to the light-hearted, DIY attitude of the single, with his lightly overdriven solo sounding almost as if Mark Knopfler had been invited to the studio the day Arctic Monkeys layed down 'Fluorescent Adolescent'. A moment of calm enters, before Max Flenley's aforementioned melodica solo briefly takes over the tune. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a lo-fi ska-rock track to have a melodica solo, but it makes a perfect addition to the song. Now I want to hear more melodica in everything. Death metal? melodica. Folk rock? melodica. A disappointing speech from the Queen? you bet your arse that needs a melodica too.
Combining simple melodies with brief flashes of technical fanciness, the performances from the group are endearingly fun with their music sounding rough but (most importantly) genuine. Up The Bug are not a band with a polished sound, and that's exactly how it should be. They just sound like four talented lads making music in a garden shed, simply because they are.
Though the recording environment of this track was not ideal for the band, the DIY aesthetic that surrounds 'Killing Time' might just be perfect for the style of music they so effortlessly create. I have to assume that those beer bottles on the floor are doing something for their acoustics, because for a self-recorded tune this group should be particularly proud of how the track turned out. The vocals are clear, the drums punch through the mix and every instrument gets its chance to be heard. 'Killin Time' is really solid effort from Up The Bug, sounding satisfyingly present in your headphones and offering a rare moment of humour in the barren landscape of April 2020.
Check out the video for 'Killin Time' below. Find them on facebook and instagram and go raid PMT while you're at it.
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Ben Wheadon is editor and founder of Slow Motion Panic Masters. He is a Welsh musician and English Literature student at King's College, London and he should be writing a dissertation instead of creating a blog.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.
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