Matthew Sweet. Jawbreaker. Juliana Hatfield Three. All hallowed names from the alt.rock movement of the nineties. Add Ultimate Fakebook to that list, as The Preserving Machine is as crucial in 2020 as it would have been during college rock's heyday.
I’ve discussed in the past the swathe of newer emo bands that have appropriated certain melancholia from bands of yesteryear – that bittersweet mixture of power-pop and “traditional” emo (not post-hardcore, not screamo) that seems to still be all the rage with the Slam Dunk crowd.
For lack of a better all-encompassing term for fans of that/this kind of music.
From early Weezer to Jawbreaker and those on the borderlines of college rock and mid-90’s AOR, they all have had a profound influence on modern-day artists. Kansas’ power-pop trio Ultimate Fakebook should be considered as one of those influences, if perhaps without the same personage the other flagbearers have.
Not yet anyway.
Given that the band have toured with such pop-punk stalwarts as Fallout Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, The Get Up Kids and Nada Surf (with a brief foray on the road with At The Drive-In), perhaps the collective punk consciousness has been slightly unkind to the group.
If the band were good enough to perform with, to some, the godfather’s of collegiate punk The Descendents, then why haven’t they been good enough to be household names?
The Preserving Machine charts the group’s seventh entry into their discography that spans back to before the new millennium and their first since 2010’s Daydream Radio Is Smiling Static. The irony of being middle-aged and writing songs that have that teenage doldrum appeal isn’t lost on the band either.
“I’m 45 and still alive. What can I say?” the band acknowledge in “My Music Industry”, and yet much like a lot of power-pop bands from the nineties, it’s pertinence still manages to resonate with my inner teenager. Much like it would and should with other listeners who grew up on a steady diet of Weezer, Matthew Sweet, Juliana Hatfield Three and Mega City Four.
I was a keyboard stroke away from a Teenage Fanclub comparison, but it’s a little more caffeine-addled for that.
Given that the band also make reference to the iconic sketch show Mr Show, Megadeth and Melvin’s in the ludicrously catchy “After Hours at Melin’s”, proclaiming “that’s our kinda MTV”, I seem to be part of their target audience; a ’90s kid.
“Juliet’s Fool” marks the obligatory piano-orientated ballad on the album that, in contrast to the rest of the album, is somewhat languid. But evidently, provides that moment of juxtaposition compared to the excitable nature of throughout the rest of the album.
Full disclosure; I hadn’t heard of Ultimate Fakebook until The Preserving Machine graced my inbox. Full transparency; I’m somewhat ashamed I’ve never heard of them until now.
Certainly, Ultimate Fakebook would have been a band in my younger years I would have been devoted to, and now I have around 23 years of back catalogue to check out.
But given just how beset the scene they are a part of with bands of a similar denomination, and there are a lot if we’re being honest, it’s understandable how for some they slipped under the radar.
No more though. The Preserving Machine is the launchpad for me to delve into their work. It should be yours too – and if you’re already initiated with the band and shaking your head at why it’s taken me so long to discover them, well… I’m sorry.
Play on, gentlemen. Play on.