Post-Rocktoberfest: And the Sixth Best US Post-Rock Album is…
Sidelong by Ui.
It didn’t quite squeeze into last-year’s US Post-Rock Top Five but it was pretty darn close. Ui was (and possibly still is) a New York-based band led by Sasha Frere-Jones, who is currently employed as the New Yorker’s pop music critic. The New York-ness of all this is highly significant as Sidelong, the band’s 1995 debut album, was (and most certainly still is) very much in the tradition of Big Apple post-punk and mutant disco.
With a line-up consisting of two bass players and a drummer, the version of Ui showcased on Sidelong made a sparse, funky, mostly instrumental sound – very similar to the one produced by NY legends like Liquid Liquid and ESG. All this, you should note, years before the post-punk revival kicked in. Perhaps Sidelong‘s sheer prescience explains why it has stood the test of time so well. Fifteen years on, it still sounds fresh.
Having said that, the stripped-down, bass-focused sound can get a bit wearing over the length of an entire album and the band’s white funk workouts do tend to lumber occasionally. Oh and sometimes, it really just sounds like something’s missing. Which might be why Sidelong‘s most successful tracks are those that add an additional element or two – vocals and synth on “Sexy Photograph” (a not-too-distant relation of Can’s “You Do Right”) or vocal and banjo on “Golden Child”.
Given the quality of this material, you can’t help wishing Frere-Jones would stop wasting his time writing books about Michael Jackson (or whatever it is he’s up to at the moment) and just pick up the ol’ bass guitar again.