Czech Republic rock is here again, courtesy of the latest release from the band C, Universum. The band’s last EP was a fun, charming indie-rock affair, punctuated by a guest MC rap spot, unexpected reverb-scratching, and group sing-alongs of oddball English phrasings. With Universum, the band seems to have tightened up a bit, dropping the playfulness for a more serious instrumental style.
This is evident from the start of the disc, when “Le Grand Wazoo” bursts out of speakers sounding like a bastard love child of Lungfish and Don Caballero. The rhythm section is tight, deep, and smooth, while the guitars jut around the track at leisure – at times, there’s a hint of decay on the guitars, which add a ‘spacey’ touch to the track’s firm foundation. The rhythm riffing on “Lyrics are Never More Important than the Music” is as crunchy as basic rock rhythms get nowadays, and the two-and-a-half minute track only gets dirtier when the fuzzy, stoner-rock quality guitar lead kicks in halfway through the song.
Admittedly, though, C still sounds its finest when the band throws a few unexpected tricks into the mix. “Expellant” stands out as the album’s most interesting listen – a winding track that meshes powerful, angular guitar rhythms with a pounding rhythm section and spoken female vocals. As the female voice intones, “Dislodge all foreign objects,” the track frenzies up and breaks down into a bludgeoning rhythm break down, leading to a simple, but intensely rendered guitar lead frenzy. “Sikplusone” separates itself from obvious Don Caballero comparisons with the inclusion of a xylophone-sounding keyboard piece, though the track fails to do anything to hold attention beyond that initial attention grabber.
While all eight tracks here are tightly performed, half the material really feels like filler. “Le Grand Wazoo” and “Expellant” could not be further polar opposites, but in the context of these recordings, the songs compliment each other brilliantly, while “Lyrics are Never More Important than the Music” and the album-closing stomp “Hymen” just legitimately kick a whole lot of ass. There may indeed be some filler here, but the stuff that works does so really well; Universum‘s risky, but worth a shot for adventurous listeners.