The much welcomed reissue of many of Underground Lovers albums on vinyl reflects that most were issued during the heyday of CDs in the nineties. Today, the Undies announce the release of their 1997 album ‘Ways T’Burn’, remastered and on vinyl for the very first time through Rubber Records. There’s a couple more to go by my estimation.
This was an album that foreshadowed the more experimental electronica of ‘Cold Feeling’ which was remastered and released as vinyl earlier this year. The reduced line up of Glenn Bennie, Vince Giarrusso and Maurice Argiro (with contributions from drummers Derek J Yuen and Andrew Nunns) was augmented by a coterie of esteemed musicians including current and former members Richard Andrew and Philippa Nihill. The songs are understated pop – often reflective and dreamy with a misty haze weaving through many of the tracks. But the overall effect is melodic pop with a slight kink – the mix of acoustic and electronica that the band perfects.
Opening track ‘All Is Quiet’ and ‘Take A Piece of Cake are examples of this – jangly guitars and minimal percussion with a distant drone – quite and reflective. ‘Starsigns’ is classic Undies – an arching, memorable melody over a fog of sound, chugging and soaring at the same time with an euphoric expanse.
‘She Takes Her Revenge’ is a thumping example of the band’s flirtation with a shoegaze onslaught with its fuzzy insistent guitars and brisk pace. ‘From ‘Jumbled in The Commonbox” swerves away again to a glitchy slice of electronica that foreshadows elements of ‘Cold Feeling’ with its sticky percussion, swirling guitars and swooping synths. The reverberated echoing vocals add a chemically induced foggy haze, adapting lyrics from a poem by W.H. Auden.
The wistful air of ‘Under The Microscope’ gently eases us back to the dream pop reverie – a floating delicate piece that shimmers and swirls in the ether, whispered voices deep in the mix layered and ghostly.
The title track to the album is an absolute killer and peak Undies – with a wry delivery in Giarrusso’s vocals that give this band its unique edge. Melody and music combine to create something delicious and frou frou (to quote from the song) and a sense of melancholy:
I ain’t got nothing left but memories, and I’ve paid a hefty price for them
‘On The Way Home’ launches with a single note drone and a shoegaze haze – distorted vocals add a surreal element, delivered on yet another strong melodic base. ‘Las Vegas Lullaby’ with its sweeping riffs, horns and the vocals way under the mix is mesmerising and cinematic.
Final track ‘I Feel so Cold’ has an acoustic clarity, moving away from the drone and the haze with Giarrusso’s cracking emotive voice filled with yearning and regret. At seven minutes long, it is a song of two parts – launching into a sweeping instrumental at the end that is absolutely epic.
It is easy to overlook ‘Way T’Burn’ in the Undies catalogue (as consistently strong as it is) and this reissue is a welcome reminder that the band has an unerring ability to deliver the most indelible pop in every release. This is a brilliant underrated album – filled with little gems that showcase the melodic strength of the band as well as their willingness to experiment with sound.
There are only 150 copies of the vinyl, mastered by Don Bartley, available – you’d better be quick:
The Underground Lovers will be playing some of the tracks from the album in Melbourne in another electronic spectacular in Moda Discoteca at the Northcote Social Club on Saturday, 16 December – tickets available here.