All instant gratification…

ultimate-paintingAnd so it goes.

Another month has tip-toed past, its collar turned up to its eyebrows, and again I never noticed. Gah!

For a while now, I’ve been saying I’ll post some songs from the “recent” Ultimate Painting set at The Fleece, (yeah, I know January doesn’t seem very “recent” to me, either…) and now I notice they’re up for Green Man this year. Seems as good a time as any…

Ultimate Painting

If you felt sufficiently moved, you could describe Ultimate Painting as some sort of fey-indie-pop supergroup, in that the heart of the band is Jack Cooper from Mazes, and James Hoare from Veronica Falls, genuine next generation indie royalty, if you will, although still not registering high on my interest scale previously. I think I did buy the first Mazes record but it didn’t really stick and Veronica Falls are another band that have evaded me completely. I need to go back and do some revisiting there, because Ultimate Painting are just my sort of thing.

An Ultimate Painting album appeared towards the end of last year on the flawless Trouble in Mind and a swift trip through the reviews of it will bring you words like “autumnal”, “breezy”, “jangle” and more often than not “Velvet Underground”, which pretty much tells you what you need to know. I should say, though, that we’re not talking howling, screeching Factory period VU, more like 1969 VU – all light, uptight rhythm guitar and melody. I can’t be arsed to read all the reviews, but the other name that’ll definitely come up will be that of Teenage Fanclub and, hey, surely that’ll do it for you – the Gold Standard, after all.

To be fair (lazy pigeon-holing aside), Ultimate Painting have their own spindly, slightly melancholic sound, propelled by an energetic pair of interwoven, elastic-y rhythm and lead guitars, backed by their own austere rhythm section of spongy bass and cardboard box drummer. Both Cooper and Hoare take vocals, presumably backing each other’s songs, and giving anxious, slightly scruffy versions of each of the pair’s delicate tunes. It’s instantly likeable, and the lyrics bear a second (third) listen.

I’ve been reading a chapter in David Byrne’s book about how the ability to record music had a profound effect on live music itself. The gist of it is that live performances of songs were forced to change fundamentally as the recorded medium grew, and that the need to integrate with recording technologies has changed music irrevocably. I think he’s arguing against the tendency to assume that live performances should be reflections of recorded output (I say, “I think” – he’s a clever guy…). I’m not sure where this leaves Hoare and Cooper because on the night their performance sounded pretty much identical to their record – not a lot of improv or stagecraft. (Compare this with White Fence’s set later that night, which had versions of songs from his record that were almost unrecognisable…)

I’m quite happy with it, though, they sounded great on the night and I greatly enjoyed their set; and I suppose you could argue that with their record coming out pretty quickly, their songs had not grown from live performance, but I think from impromptu sessions backstage, when Cooper’s band supported Hoare’s in the US. However it was, I’ve a respect for songs that stand up on their own.

Favourite tunes are the self-titled opening track (which of course gives you a UP full house) and the beautiful, reassuringly fogey-ish, “Rolling in the Deep End”

Ultimate Painting

Rolling in the Deep End

Central Park Blues