There's nothing else on the radio right now that sounds like Ultraviolet Eye's Platform Song Cycle (lowartmusic.com) with its chilling grasp of seriously age-old pop psychedelics and the Kitchen-Aid Professional blending of the sort of blips and bleeps that have ruined Wilco records but sound utterly at home here. Their styles plop them firmly a-front of Los Angeles' whispered about, 'no-niche' non-movement of bands that will not easily be pigeonholed. I think if I heard Platform Song Cycle a million times I'd still be hearing new things.
Ultraviolet Eye are based around the nucleus of singer/guitarist Jeff Charreaux and bassist Roy Appleman. Their producer, Jeff Farley, brings additional euroclash flourishes and hammond organ to some of their songs.
They originally formed in Amsterdam, then spent weeks wandering the city's used book stores, as Roy recalls, trying to discover which Oscar Wilde book mentions violet eyes. Like a number LA musicians, they are perhaps better known on the European mainland than they are at home; they met their current drummer, Gerard Herera, after his girlfriend heard their european radio hit, 'Courtney Love Song' in an Amsterdam 'Coffee shop'.
There have been tangible successes in the US too. Aside from the new record, they are preparing several songs for a forthcoming PBS environmental documentary, 'Trash Kontiki'.
Roy says, "Since we started there anyway, I always thought a measure of success would be if we got onto Dutch radio, so I am happy with that." "Getting a postcard after John Peel played us..." Jeff says, was a thrill of the sort that only well invested music lovers would understand.
When we met, though, I asked them about their new album, 'Platform Song Cycle' and just why I think I'm hearing strains of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and the Move, a psychedelic pop-lite... They both are dubious, but then, they're not wearing my ears...."I've tried to appreciate the Move..." Jeff says with a hint of bemusement. "We really tried to go heavy on the melody this time and not have such raw guitars. I think our one psychedelic influence would be Syd Barrett, if I can speak for both of us." Roy says. Jeff agrees, "But the tye-dye and afro aspect of psychedelia, I'm not a big fan of. Did Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood have afros in The Move?" Dubious, after all.
We've never attempted to do this before, but we're going to give readers a chance to download 2 Ultraviolet Eye MP3's, totally for free.
(Right) Click on the titles below and save the linked file to your hard drive. There are no fees and no DRM expiry date crap. It's like having the entire iTunes library open to you for free, only it only contains two songs.
Debris de la Plage (4.5 MB) One of the first tracks recorded for the album, Roy says, is an "ode to people who got left behind."
Nostalgeria (10.5 MB) "Started as a soundtrack piece but evolved into something thats fits well on the current record." Patience dear reader, it starts very quietly...
There are tons of aural and literary reference points on Platform Song Cycle, but it nothing sounds as if it was shoehorned in there to meet the needs of the concept. It's not a dreaded concept record... "I thought we should have more thematic unity on this CD," Jeff says. "As for the literary references, from say Michael Houellebecq, he really stuck in my head out of all of the things I'd been reading."
I wonder if outsideleft's Houellebecquniniated would find the entertaining Whatever (which Mr. Lake sent me years ago), a good introduction to his work? Roy slaps the notion down hard. "Whatever is kind of weak. Most of his books are rip-offs of Camus, but that was his first effort. Elementary Particles rips off Sartre." "In a good way." Jeff counters, "I'd suggest Lanzarotte. That's an over-priced novella with colored photos that takes about an hour to read. If you hate that, you'll hate it all." He's a magnet for lapsed catholics everywhere? "Houellebecq is the world's greatest modern novelist," Jeff says, "He won a defamation lawsuit in the French Supreme Court for a remark he made in a German magazine interview that said he thought Islamic fundamentalism is stupid."
Is it the French author's influence responsible for the irony eschewing lyrics? "Ever since Lou Barlow moved to Silver Lake, I made a conscious effort to get away from irony." Jeff smiles... "Actually, after two different reviews of our "Heroin Geek" CD had Frank Zappa references, I had to re-think my songwriting. I really didn't take that as a compliment."
Roy adds, "You can have more wit in your lyrics with less Marshall guitar."
"It's not only about the lyrics," Jeff continues, "'That's No Crime' is interesting because everybody's trying to sing high like Chris Martin. And now I'm hearing that grunge-style of singing mixed with Coldplay on MTV."
With the recognition and resignation of a man who has spent a lot of time in LA rehearsal rooms, Roy knowingly adds, "It had to happen."
The lyrics are unambiguous at all times, a quite direct indictment of where we are with our world, what we're doing with it, but it's all so surreptitious in a way, the gilded melody underpinning the message. But your message is not a sloganeering one...?
Jeff says, "Well, there's a quote politicians always use: that you can tell a lot about a society by the way it treat its disabled and infirmed. And work with autistic students doing art."
Roy says, "Then you get to be on the receiving end of America's hatred for the non-productive members of society."
I wondered whether you'd get special training for that work?
"I took the required courses and test with professors coming in to observing me, " Jeff says, "mostly I remember that Bryan Ferry played Motown when he taught art at a girl's school."
Roy adds, "And your assistant threatened you if you ever played Motown again..."
"I had bought a box-set from an infomercial off TV and the students wanted to hear the same songs, in the same order every day."
Ultraviolet Eye from now on, never giving the kids just what they want. Ever.
Check out Ultraviolet Eye and the other artists doing their singular thing at lowartmusic.com