Whatever way you look at it or wish to pronounce it, UUVVWWZ is not a good band name. I could just about get on board with the idea if we were saying it as “You-You-Vee-Vee-Double U-Double U-Zed (Zee)”. What I don’t find conscionable is the Saddle Creek band’s decision to go for “Double U-Double-V-Double-W-Zee (Zed)” as a pronunciation choice. Not good. Anyway, I could spend this entire review on terrible band names but that would leave little space to tell you about the band’s second album The Trusted Language. Oh, just one more thing before I get to the music. If I could punch a press release, I’d do it for this: “we aspire to braid music theory with experimental poetry, which functions as a conduit towards a schizo-cultural critique and embodied project”.
To be fair to UUVVWWZ, the press release is correct in pointing out that this record is an altogether more cohesive listen compared to the mish-mash of their self-titled debut album. The trick is that the band has chosen to focus on their strengths: stellar guitar playing, but mainly the stunning voice of front woman Teal Gardner. Once you come to terms with the vocal leaps of faith, the power and range of Gardner’s voice is something to behold. One moment she’ll be yelping and flying up and down the register as she wages war against the stoner riffs of album opener ‘No Apart’, the next she’s gently torch-singing her way through the tense-yet-shimmering closer ‘The Trusted Language’. It’s never anything less than captivating, and her talent benefits from a more focused musical approach.
This time around UUVVWWZ have mostly dispensed with the dancier elements, making them less of a poor man’s Gang Gang Dance and more PJ Harvey-meets-Deerhoof-gone-punk-jazz. The dissonant riffing of the aforementioned opener is taken to crazier, rather unpalatable extremes by the power chord explosions of ‘GRIPS’, and Gardner’s own lyrical explosions: “Look at the skin against/Look at the eye/Look at the water from out of the window/Look at the self/Blockade denied below the tongue/Declared irrational unit/Left alone wondering now/What is now?” And that’s one of the bits that make any sense. Patience can be tested by Gardner’s attemptoforceasmanywordsasshecanintoaline but thankfully she reins in these indulgences most of the time before it becomes a piece of performance poetry. ‘Perfect House’ is an example of the newly-focused UUVVWWZ; the swinging, jazzy opening folding into controlled chaos that never gets out of hand. ‘Broad Sky Blues’ follows a similar pattern, being a smoky ballad with crackling guitar that threatens to explode the song into life but Gardner and co. show admirable restraint to leave things as they are, and ‘Possible Project’ is a positively bouncing pop song that lets Gardner show off her falsetto. Things do get slightly out of control on ‘Open Sign’ but in a brilliant way; a song about the constricting double language that surrounds us (“open for business” signs, for example) it rides on fuzz bass and heroic riffing before crashing to a halt as Gardner rants her way to the end of the song. ‘Charlotte’s List’ is another slower track, but this one rather meanders to an unfocused messy close – but thanks to the brilliance of the final title track we’re left with a more positive image of the new-look Lincoln, Nebraska band.
The Trusted Language is a lot to get your head around even after a handful of listens, so it’s definitely not a record to turn to if you’re looking for an instant gratifying hit. It is, though, a massive improvement on UUVVWWZ’s debut release and with Teal Gardner’s lyrics, voice and imagination there’s real star power to be harnessed.