The Bleach Room
Goths in my neck of the woods have been a bit wary of Ulterior in the past. The cosign from Andrew Eldritch via opening Sisters slots may have as much to do with that as praise from the likes of Vice given Von’s infamous distaste for any younger bands indebted to the Sisters’ early days. Ulterior’s first LP, Wild In Wildlife did in fact betray an oath of fealty to Leeds’ finest, but it was to Vision Thing‘s pure rock side rather than any previous romanticism. Sophomore effort The Bleach Room finds Ulterior not only expanding upon that sound, but consolidating their newfound reach around the strongest songs they’ve written as of yet.
After even the most cursory listen it’s apparent that Ulterior have broadened their reach, and they don’t stack up unfavourably to some of the classic names The Bleach Room connotes. “Psychic Chic” bears a surface resemblance to The March Violets’ “Snake Dance” but has a Suicide groove under the hood, and there are some smoove “The Fly” era Bono-isms on “Hello Andromeda”. “Body Hammer” laps Vision Thing-era Eldritch in his own fin de siècle drag race, and ends up in the winner’s circle with Billy Idol, of all people. It’s a ridiculous yet ultimately killer tune which demands to be a single, though remixers should approach it with a feather touch: it’s already set to destroy floors.
“Body Hammer” makes it apparent that if there’s one heavy crib from the Sisters remaining in Ulterior’s playbook at this point it’s the enshrinement of attitude and a sense of danger above all other considerations (though that could just as easily stem from the Mary Chain or Guns N’ Roses at this point). Julian Marszalek‘s point about how “all the great rock and roll bands…looked like a gang” holds up here, but fifteen pieces of flair don’t give you the clutch of tunes necessary to keep an audience of first timers interested after a fog-cloaked entrance, and ten retreads of “Body Hammer” would be conservative and weak for a band who’ve been around for six or so years now.
Thankfully The Bleach Room brings tunes, and does so by sending the band’s strengths off in myriad directions without sacrificing the attitude that got them in the door. There’s still plenty of the full-bore rock-with-the-rock of Wild In Wildlife, but both the mechanical buzzes and drones with smother their guitars and their glammier tendencies are brought into sharper focus. On “Cool TV” both combine for a bubbling frenzy of through the scanner darkly weirdness, whereas the same forces are marshaled for the far more controlled, menacing (and club-ready) “Skydancing”.
Ulterior have upped the stakes from the “What if A.R.E. Weapons had stuck the landing?” position they started out in, and substantially so. Some folks were initially turned off by the high drama of their ethos: liquid leather, spycraft, and buckets of nocturnal rain. It’d be a shame if those people couldn’t get over Ulterior’s grandiose indulgences on this outing, though I could understand why: a line from the closing “The Locus Of Control”‘s stream of consciousness – “Occam’s Razor in the hands of the Ripper” – was a tad too purple for even my decadent tastes. That said, whether the Grant Morrisson-cum-Alan Vega approach is a turn on or turn off, the noise and the tunes are undeniable: I loved The Bleach Room, full stop. Stop worrying about who or what is behind the aviators, and listen.