UJ3RK5 – The Anglican
UJ3RK5-Eisenhower & The Hippies
UJ3RK5 – The Locator
After a one week hiatus due to the unrelenting intensity of NXNE FCD is back, refreshed and ready to plunge into the murky waters of the before time. On tap this week we have the much beloved, never imitated, spasmodic spiraling madness wave of Vancouver’s short-lived art rock superheroes UJ3RK5 (as per wikipedia, “pronounced ‘you jerk’ – the five is silent). The band was formed in the late 70s, coalescing into their final lineup in 1979 and releasing one EP, before signing to PolyGram and promptly breaking up in 1980, with several members of the band moving on to successful art careers.
Their recorded output is limited to the aforementioned EP and two tracks on the Vancouver Complication, a wonderful snapshot of the Vancouver scene released in August of 1979. The sound is remarkable. The immediate comparisons to the Talking Heads and the B-52s are certainly valid, but UJ3RK5 maintain an unhinged quality that, coupled with their frantic precision set them apart from both bands and their contemporaries in the Vancouver scene. Frank Ramirez’ angryman shouts recall fellow art rock/new wave also rans Wazmo Nariz and Jim Skafish, and would be risible were they not backed with such conviction and employed in the service of his arch, smartest guy in the room ramblings. The Anglican, possibly the highlight of their 6 song oeuvre, is a loving take down of Anglicanism expressed, for reasons unknown, in the vocabulary of science fiction over a DEVO-like robotic shuffle, but with violins. Eisenhower & The Hippies, named for a work by American conceptual artist Dan Graham, was an unlikely minor radio hit and is the bands most overtly political track, though those politics remain inscrutable, (sample lyric: “Eisenhower and the hippies/one synonymous with the other/try to make it clean as houndstooth”) but features the band at their most dynamic, expertly building tension with their frenetic stops and starts. The A-side’s final track, The Locator, is perhaps the closest UJ3RKS get to an orthodox pop song and provides a tantalizing glimpse of what they could have become, fusing their general oddness with a harmonized hook and unlikely dance beats. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about UJ3RK5 is how fully realized their sound is. Every moment of their lone EP feels deliberate, designed by a razor-sharp aesthetic sensibility to be received exactly as it was conceived, and it leaves a bittersweet feeling. This band were too good to give us so little.