UTS came all the way down from Ipswich (also home to post punk revival band ‘Rosalita’ ) to play The Hob, Staines on Thursday’s regular live music evening – bringing with them their overlarge headphone cans for Hicks, and their adorable and instantly infectious, catchy pop songs fresh from a box labelled ‘energy and charm’.
Obviously, this lively five-piece band has been busy in their craft shop back home, with their sticky backed plastic, their safe scissors and lashings of glue, putting together some lovingly created little bits and pieces just for you. To treasure, to cherish or just to hold on to for an evening.
Underline the Sky is lead by the singer Bronwyn Cooper (slim, attractive, clean-bill-of-health) wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Sexy Girls Come Up to Me’. By her side, Dan Oaten is on guitar (cuddly pocket-rocket guitar power-house.) Chiron Richardson-Todd is on the bouncing bass, Tom Bryce is also on guitar and helps with those harmonising backing vocals. And who could miss the lanky stick of dynamite James ‘Hicks’ on drums? Wearing what I can only describe as two flower pots, stuck to the lugs on his head.
There is an urgency to Bronwyn’s performance. She uses the entire stage – bokking up-and-down the length of it, like some doe eyed young fawn out at play time. She encourages the whole crowd – and her band-mates too - to give it all – to achieve the best possible performance. She is a star in the making. After the show Bronwyn put on some kooky spectacles and, with her hair up, she looked like one of those hot librarians. She is that rare artist who looks even better off stage than on.
UTS songs are all about sunset beaches and being in love when you’re sixteen. Yes, it is all a bit sickly sweet. But, as our American cousins on campus would say … it’s kinda cute and also kinda neat. But even though the hooks and the verses are full of cherry-pop cream soda sweetness and light, I also really appreciated the growling, snarling, darker undercurrents of the heavy guitar, layered under each lemon-puff tune. Their songs are like life, really. Very funny and light on the surface, with much to laugh about when you are out with your friends. But underneath, at home, off stage, in the dark, alone – things are full of tension and anxiety. And pain.
And the lyrics to the UTS songs are not that cheesy either: This Is Goodbye:
“when you speak it makes me sick
like poison written on your lips”
You would expect that line from an emo band like ‘Paramore’ – but this is a group full of cheerful bright and bouncy poppy young people. It is worth remembering that even happy-go-lucky adolescents, with good teeth and nice hair cuts, have their darker places too.
But the songs kept spilling out. Each was destined for chart success and summertime disco airplay. Take for example the song ‘Katie’ which is as insistent as a wasp at a summer barbecue. But beware. You will get stung. Because you will be exposed to a frustratingly boppy chorus and that memorable rhythm. “Tonight I will sleep,” she sings. But it is unlikely, ‘Cos you do not forget this one in a hurry. Or take the song ‘Live This One Down’ which has gigantic boulders of bass and heavy chords acting as foundation stones for the honey sweet vocals from Bronwyn, reminding me a lot of Avril Lavigne.
So these are happy pop punk melodies- reminiscent of Blink 182 - seamlessly patchworked together with experimental rhythms, to provide some hard-cut classic pop, easily digestible for the masses and suitable for mainstream release. This is a band who knows where they are going and they are willing to take the necessary steps to get there. But the buckets-and-spades end-of-pier appeal to this band is that they are charming, well-groomed, spontaneous and generous. They bounce and cavort on stage like the fun loving kids that they really are. And this draws the audience in and, very soon, Bronwyn gets everyone to start shuffling their feet and clapping their mitts to those infectious beats.
“They Said We’d Never Make it…” They sing. Well, I don’t know about that, because I am pretty sure that this band will be catching the next plane outta Suffolk and on way to Successville. And you had better be there. Or you’ll miss it!