By Eleni P. Austin
Uni Boys have entitled their newest long-player Buy This Record Now!, and that’s good advice. The L.A. natives released their major label debut “Do It All Now,” a little more than a year ago. It was a heady brew of Power Pop, Punk, Psychedelia, Garage and Glam-Rock By retrofitting musical genres that have been around for more than half a century, they’ve found a way to give this amalgam a 21st century twist.
The four-piece started life as a trio, when classmates Reza Matin (bass) and Noah Nash (guitar) recruited another school pal, Arthur Fitch to play drums. As Uniform, their original musical touchstone was Punk. But pretty soon, newer (older) influences began creeping into their sound. They went down a Beatles/Beach Boys rabbit hole that led them to everyone from Mahavishnu Orchestra to Soft Machine. New obsessions included New York Dolls’ guitarist Johnny Thunders, unsung heroes like Big Star, The Quick and the db’s, plus cult faves like Milk N’ Cookies. To mark their new direction, they became Uni Boys. The final puzzle pieces fell into place when Michael Cipoletti took over bass duties and Reza switched to guitar.
During the pandemic, Uni Boys got serious about turning their demos into full-fledged songs. They wound up self-releasing two albums, Rock N’ Roll Music and Heavy-Hearted. Their infectious sound got them noticed and garnered some attention from Brent Rademaker’s (Beachwood Sparks, GospelbeacH) Curation Records. He offered to release the band’s first two efforts, but Uni Boys preferred to up the ante, opting to write and record a brand new album. “Do It All Next Week” arrived in late 2022. Now they’ve returned with Buy This Now!
The record crackles to life with the Bubblegum Crunch of “Let’s Watch A Movie.” Chiming guitar riffs collide with distorto chords, angular bass, propulsive handclaps and a piledriving beat. The hard-charging, Punk-Pop arrangement shares a hint of musical DNA with The Jam’s “In The City.” It also belies lyrics that plead fatigue, forgoing a night on the town: “I know you’re tired, because I’m tired too, there’s only one thing left to do, we’re going to get real close, we’re going to make the most of a movie night for two.” They shake off their malaise long enough to assay some woo-ooh-ooh harmonies that would be fun even if daddy took the T-Bird away. Tremolo-d guitars accelerate through the break, before the song shudders to a stop.
Although they’ve been labeled a Power Pop band, the Uni Boys add plenty of colors and textures to their sonic palette. Take “I’m Alright,” which weds downstroke riff-age and sinewy bass lines to a spring-loaded beat. The tough-minded arrangement and tensile instrumentation are mirrored by sardonic lyrics that attempt to win back an an ex: “You’re not asking, but here goes, I’ll let you know how it’s been, I’m doing fine, been working out, no I haven’t, but I bought some new jeans.” Spiraling guitars, choir boy harmonies and a Doo-Wop-y bridge feign sincerity, but a spiky guitar solo confirms the bitterness remains.
Then there’s the surprisingly wistful “Two Years,” which opens with skittery guitars, wiry bass, plinky keys and a snapback beat. Labyrinthine wordplay can’t distract from the ever-present ache: “I feel empathy for those who battle tendencies to resort to their dependencies, it’s hard to stray from love’s grip, endlessly, I’m reminded of our chemistry, even when logic follows secondly, it’s never enough to persist…two years apart and you’re still on my mind.” Tender feelings are bookended by stuttering guitars, sly bass and a strafing beat.
Meanwhile, “Say You’ll Make It Real” is a prickly declaration of love powered by stripped-down guitars, see-saw bass and a basher beat. Despite sweet boyish harmonies, lyrics like “I want you to hold me, I want you to console me when the days feel way too real, I want you to know me, don’t want you to ignore me” sound more like a kidnapper’s manifesto than a romantic overture. On the break, guitars pivot between sugar rush licks and squally shards, underscoring the lyrical equivocation.
This record relentlessly excellent front to back, but a few tracks stand out from the pack. The fizzy arrangement of “Hiding At Home,” blends serpentine guitars, boinging bass, fresh-faced harmonies, whiz-bang keys and a pummeling beat. It’s juxtaposed with sad-sack lyrics that long for a reclusive existence: “I’m often angry, but never cranky, spending time alone is what I like to do…It’s just talkin’ and feeling rotten, I’d rather stay in bed and order out take-out food, eat it in the nude, I’m hiding in my home, of you need me, come find me.” A streamlined, shiny-happy guitar solo hopscotches across the break, subverting the blasé ennui.
“Don’t Wanna Be Like You” offers a master class in Power-Pop/Punk perfection. Lithe and elastic guitars ping-pong across spidery bass lines and a caffeinated beat. Eloquent lyrics take a narcissistic poseur to task; “You hate the world and everybody’s scene, come to find that you’re tearing at the seams, now you’re looking incredibly naïve, you got your drugs, your art and your girls, you’ve been living in a real small world, actin’ like you’re better off than me.” Blitzkrieg guitars detonate on the break, locking into a sweet-sour groove. The album’s first single, “I Don’t Believe In Love” fronts as a cynical kiss-off. Slashing power chords ride roughshod across nimble bass notes, sylvan keys and a rat-a-tat beat. The lyrics paint a vivid portrait of an anxious swain denouncing romance, even as he yearns for intimacy: “But loving feelings deep inside have their own complications, I never know how to be when I’m with you, there’ll never be a perfect one, I’ll never meet that person, tell me you love me back, I loved you better, oh yeah, I don’t believe in, I don’t believe in love.” The final guitar solo on the instrumental is by turns caustic, keening and cathartic.
“Intentions” sports an irresistible hook. Jangly lead guitar connects with strumming rhythm riffs, boomerang bass and a jittery backbeat. Empathetic lyrics like “It’s not impossible to lead the life you wish, the choice is yours you’ve only got one life to live, get to know yourself again and let go of every apprehension, not to mention to pay attention to what lies inside your heart,” land somewhere between that “Hang In There” kitty poster from the ‘70s and Stuart Smalley’s affirmations. Fortunately, ricocheting guitar riffs ring and chime, slash and burn, diverting attention from the slightly cloying sentiments contained herein.
Other interesting tracks include the Farfisa-driven “Down To The City” and the Dayglo New Wave of “I Want It Too.” The record closes with the dreamy, mid-tempo groover of “Be My Baby Tonight.” It’s a winsome finish to a truly terrific record.
Baroque Soft-Rockers Michael and Brian D’Addario of The Lemon Twigs added keys and vocals, and also handled production chores. The album was recorded in the East Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
It’s easy to draw a through-line from The Beatles, Big Star, The Blues Magoos and Bowie, to The Raspberries, Todd Rundgren and T. Rex, New York Dolls, The Records, The Nerves and The Knack, Matthew Sweet, The Lilys and Velvet Crush to Uni Boys. Crisp and dazzling, lean and economical, Buy This Now! is destined to become your next favorite record.