Uranium Club, “Infants Under The Bulb”
By Jennifer Kelly · March 04, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Uranium Club spins out in a tizzy: drums double-timed, bass thumping rapid-fire, like a basketball dribbling frenzy, angsty absurdities sputtered in lines spiked with exclamation points. If you like jittery, hair-on-fire post-punk, this band is the king of it, and this, their fourth full-length, musters plenty of pogo-popping energy. However, four years on from the bristling stutter of The Cosmo Cleaners and three from their inclusion in the much-loved Sub Pop Singles series, this brainy, nervy, electroshocked outfit has made a few changes: a horn section, a running surrealist allegory about walls, an occasional nod to the elegiac.

“Small Grey Man,” an early single from Infants Under The Bulb, has a nearly anthemic heft with its rumbling thunder of drums, its wide-spaced power chords, its subtle surge of saxophone. “I want to trade SEX for information!” proclaims the vocalist—two members of the band sing, and it’s never entirely clear who is who, in keeping with their overall cryptic approach—wigged-out but absolutely committed to the bit. Later, “Game Show” stretches out its Fire Engines-into-Bog Shed-into-the-Ex-but-on-fire grooves to epic length, letting the fractious, vocal-free mesh of guitars, drums, and bass communicate the band’s discomfort with 21st century life. You could bob ecstatically or lose your shit to it—maybe both, maybe at the same time. And in “Viewers Like You,” a rant about going insane (“If I have to drool, it might as well be on cashmere”) is bolstered by Madness-style blasts of brass and reeds.

All this feels like a natural step from what Uranium Club has been doing thus far. But starting mid-album, we encounter the concept bits: A series of skits about a wall that suddenly appears in the middle of a town. These tracks are entirely different from the rest of the album—shorter, without percussion, the only music coming from a spectral keyboard. A woman narrates, telling how residents from both sides of the wall come to love its protection from dangers they didn’t know existed. The tracks comment on current border obsessions from a fairy tale remove—when the wall falls down, two women who’ve been told to fear each other decide to rebuild it together. In the real world, they’d go at each other with hammers.

Uranium Club has flirted with skits before, in the lengthy cut “Michael’s Soliloquy” from The Cosmo Cleaners, for instance. But this is almost a radio play, with multiple voices and dialogue. Its three tracks are wholly different from the rest of the album, and whether that’s an annoying interruption or another fascinating aspect of the Uranium Club art is an open call. You expect this band to push the boundaries—that’s part of their charm—but have they gone a little too far? Fortunately, you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. They’re right back at it after the story ends, fritzing right back out in the frenetic “Abandoned by the Narrator.” “Ahhhh,” howls the singer, like he’s falling off a cliff backward into a thicket of bayonets, and again all is right in Uranium Club’s weird little world.

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