UTAH! – Zoo Sounds and Destructovision

Zoo Sounds and Destructovision

Kalamazoo, Michigan’s UTAH! is something of a contrast in what you’d expect. Mixing styles from math-rock, DC hardcore, and emo, you’d think they would come off sounding like a million other pent-up, angst-ridden, talented but unoriginal acts. Instead, they somehow manage to transcend what you would expect, adding enough of their own unique flare and talent with some downright outstanding music.
This four-piece band uses cello on almost every song, which is enough to set them apart right there. But it seems like cello is becoming an oft-used rock instrument lately. They don’t use it just because they have it but make these songs sound like the cello is as vital as the melodic, driving guitars, thick bass lines, and intricate, complex percussion. With one, two, or more vocals layered on top but not overwhelming the music, the band has proved that, despite this being their first full-length, they’re mature enough to know just where things belong and in what proportion. They don’t feel the need to assault you with guitar and vocals. They’re good enough not to have to.
“The Boy Who Gave Away the Bomb” starts off as one of the more mid-tempo tracks. Building on layers of bass and cello, the song uses complex, math-rock style rhythms and a unique vocal approach that I can only compare to, say, Piebald for an interesting and emphatic start. “What Good Are You…To Me?” is a bit more herky-jerky, more of an assault of driving guitars and bass over this crazy rhythm, with cello tying it all together. By contrast, “Dereck” starts soft and pretty, with cello and drums, before going into the most restrained song here. Vocals aren’t used often, but the unique singing style of Eddie Pellino does make for a more intense feel when they come in. “Jogging Suit” is a nice, melodic and flowing instrumental (at least until its end, when vocals do come in as if it’s just be one long lead-up), and “Babette’s Areola” (what’s with the weird song titles?) is a bit more of a drawn-out affair, where the cello and smooth, melodic guitar take center stage. But by the end, it builds to a crescendo of furied percussion and driving guitar, wailing away to a brilliant assault that is by far this album’s best moments. The closer, “No More Selections, No More Bugs Bunny,” pulls things back a bit, taking a quieter, more introspective approach. But again the song has bursts of intense, driving rock interspersed with more quiet and melodic moments, and the vocals do equally well squealing and almost shouting as being almost a whisper. It’s still the music and long instrumental portions that make this song so amazing.
UTAH! went all-out on their debut full-length. With Bob Weston twiddling the knobs, they’ve managed to create one hell of a complex, powerful, and amazingly talented album. I couldn’t ask for much more. But if you do want more, there’s a little movie about a sad robot on the CD that is mildly amusing. Still, this is all about the music, and these four people have amazing talent. You’ll be hearing a lot about UTAH!