You might describe this as the "sophomore" album from James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes), such is the strength of the American influence on them, but they pull it off magnificently. Key inspirations for the UP sound appear to be The Velvet Underground’s third album and the Grateful Dead circa American Beauty. For proof of the Dead hand of Garcia on the shoulders of Hoare and Cooper, check out the loping strut of ‘Kodiak’ that opens the record or the rhythmic West Coast-inspired jangle-rocker 'Out In The Cold’ that closes it. Or to hear the Velvet Underground's influence, listen to the chugging Velvet-een pop of ‘(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues’ – a laidback groove and a killer chorus, married to an attack on the government’s benefits regime. Meanwhile, ‘Woken By Noises’ is a Dylanish stream-of-consciousness word-torrent.
Despite the Americanisms, there’s still a strong strain of Englishness, the tightly sculpted ‘Sweet Chris’ awash in melancholy and ‘Paying The Price’ simple, mournful and melodic, while ‘I Was Lost’ has the same easy elegance and sounds like one of the perfectly painted word-poems by the Clientele. The gorgeous ‘Break The Chain’, meanwhile, has arrangements seemingly inspired by, and as good as, the Zombies.
Cooper and Hoare have done great things separately, and together on the first Ultimate Painting record, but this one is outstanding – not just for the way that their voices act in harmony but for the way they complement each other so well. The deeper you dive into the record, the more you realise how good they are together. Don’t go back to the day job chaps…