Personnel: Carla Fabrizio (vocals); Nolan Cook (guitar).
The Ughs were conceived as an alter ego for the Residents to create new material for a project, which was then massively reworked with an added narrative for their Voice of Midnight album. But the Ughs material was so heavily reworked that, when the Residents found the original material again, it sounded almost new, so they decided to release it. Although the genesis of the material was itself a concept, the material here has no narrative or plot line to follow. The album is largely instrumental and although there are plenty of synthesized elements, it's the acoustic instruments that tend to stand out: jaw harp, glockenspiel, harmonica, flute, and recorder. When there are vocals, they are sung in some new/imaginary language (it ain't English, that's for sure), harking back to bits of Eskimo. Other elements, like the tribal percussion work and a bit of decidedly amateurish saxophone, also seem to look back at the Residents' early works. The beginning of the album seems to have an industrial/urban feel to it, with grating sounds and the type of shifting, incessant noise background that is unavoidable in big cities. But as the album progresses things become more pastoral, with bird sounds and more acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar and violin. Parts of "The Wondering Jew" are actually quite pretty, and "Charlie Chan" sounds like a Gypsy violin player at a train station. Over 30 years down the road, it seems like the Residents could never capture the mixture of na‹vet‚, avant-garde abandon, and raw possibility of their earliest work. That may well be true, but they do manage to bring a bit of that back into the mix here, making The Ughs! unlike anything they've done in the last 15 or 20 years. ~ Sean Westergaard