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'Uglier Than They Used Ta Be'
(Metalvile/UKJ Records)
Release date: Monday 28th September

Johnny Main

johnny main

ugly kid joe

Ugly Kid Joe were formed by childhood friends Whitfield Crane and Klaus Eichstadt in the Isla Vista area of California back in 1987. The band rose to fame in the early 1990s with a bit of help after their song 'Everything About You' was included in the film 'Wayne's World' and it's subsequent soundtrack album. The single propelled the band into the spotlight and saw them opening for acts as big as Ozzy Osbourne (on his mammoth 'No More Tears' Tour) and Def Leppard (on their tour to support their 'Adrenalize' album).

Ugly Kid Joe released three full length albums between 1992 and 1996, but by 1997 interest in the band was waning and their final album was released on an independent label after being dropped by their record company. They eventually disbanded in 1997 with Crane being the most high profile ex-member as he joined Life of Agony for a short while. In December 2009, during an interview with a German music magazine, Eichstadt, he happened to mention that the band were planning a reunion, with an official announcement coming from the band shortly after.

The band released the 'Stairway To Hell' EP in June 2012, and played a number of high profile shows to promote it, including appearances at the Sweden Rock Festival, Download in the UK and the Metal in Milan Festival as well as supporting Alice Cooper on his 'Raise The Dead' tour throughout October 2012. This tour was followed up in October 2013 with a joint co-headlining European tour with Skid Row, which proved hugely successful for them. So successful was the tour, in fact, the that band launched a crowd funding effort in 2014 to help pay for the recording of this, their first brand new album in nearly twenty years.

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This ten track opus has a running time of around forty five minutes and no matter what you thought about Ugly Kid Joe in the past, this is a fresh start of sorts for them, and it sees the band in a more mature state of mind, ending up with an overall more relaxed recording from the band.

'Bad Seed' is a good mid-paced number with a solid, heavy groove to it. Frontman Whitfield Crane gives a great, passionate performance and he really stretches his voice during the choruses. The guitars are loud and brash with the second guitar solo flowing really well as the number fades out in great fashion, making it an early highlight of the album for me. Another mid-paced number, 'She's Gone Already', has a heavy guitar riff leading the way. Drummer Shannon Larkin uses some inventive fills at the back and is joined by a lighter guitar sound that unfortunately ends up being dwarfed by the main guitar riff.

'My Old Man' is the first of a trio of tracks to feature guest star Phil Campbell from the legendary Motorhead. The initial guitar solo gives way to a mix of Larkins drums and Crane's voice before the guitar kicks solidly back in after the first verse. It doesn't take long for the track to find its feet and Campbell's guitar solo is, as expected, an accomplished affair – even if it's a bit on the short side!

ugly kid joe

The inclusion of the Motorhead classic 'Ace Of Spades' is a strange one – I mean why not put on another original composition instead? Who knows, but what I do know is that this is one high octane performance of the track. Campbell makes an appearance on a track he must have played hundreds of times over the years, and it doesn't get faster than this version!

On some versions of the album there's another cover song included as a bonus – the Motown classic 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' (featuring Australian singer/songwriter Dallas Frasca), which ends the album on an upbeat note. Like 'Ace Of Spades' before it, it's an incredibly well done cover with Crane giving his all one last time. A suitably bluesy rendition of the track to begin with, the band inject a heavier element giving it a unique feel. It's well worth sourcing the version with this bonus if you can track it down.

After from the rockers, there's also a number of acoustic based tracks including 'Under The Bottom' starts off as a nice acoustic number with Campbell once again featuring on guitar, but after the first verse comes the thundering drums from Larkin and electric guitar riff that elevates the track into a true show stopper. Crane gives a performance tinged menace, but he also gives what could be his best performance of the album. As the track alternates between the heavy electric guitar and the acoustic guitar it gives the whole piece extra atmosphere. The twin guitar work from Dave Fortman and Eichstadt (or should that be triple if you include Campbell?) sound towards the end is so heavy and so well performed I'd love to see the band do this live (with or without Campbell) – without a doubt, it's one of the standout tracks of the album for me.

'Man Of The Mirror' has Larkin counting in another acoustic number giving Crane another great platform for his voice. It's a simple set up here, but it's the drums add an bit of extra texture to the number. A subtle electric guitar solo creeps in without much drama as the lyrics imbue themselves to the listener and you feel yourself singing along with ease on the first listen. It really is a remarkable song and a potential hit single surely?

'Nothing Ever Changes' continues the acoustic theme as the track talks about changing the past. It's got sincere vocal performance from Crane and the simplicity of the track plays to its strengths, with just guitar and voice retained. 'Enemy' too, which closes the standard version of the album is another showcase for Crane's talent. The pace quickens during the chorus and the addition of some lyrical electric guitar makes a nice counterbalance to the acoustic guitar. It would be a real lighters on the air moment (or should that be mobile phone these days) during a live gig I'm sure and it'll be another crowd pleaser. Just when you think the track is coming to an end, though, there's one final flurry as a fast section kicks into gear making a grand finale of a great song. Top marks all round.

You can see the official lyric video for 'Hell Aint Hard To Find' here:

You can Ugly Kid Joe live here:
Thursday 17th September – The Garage, Glasgow
Friday 18th September – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (Sold Out)
Saturday 19th September – Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
Sunday 20th September – Bowery District, Reading
Tuesday 22nd September – Sound Circus, Bournemouth
Wednesday 23rd September – The Hub, Plymouth
Thursday 24th September – Marble Factory, Bristol
Friday 25th September – Concorde 2, Brighton
Saturday 26th September – Underworld, London (Sold Out)
Sunday 27th September – Underworld, London

'Uglier Than They Used Ta Be' Tracklist:
Hell Aint Hard To Find
Let The Record Play
Bad Seed
Mirror Of The Man
She's Already Gone
Nothing Ever Changes
My Old Man
Under The Bottom
Ace Of Spades
Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Bonus Track)

Ugly Kid Joe are:
Whitfield Crane - Vocals
Dave Fortman - Guitar
Klaus Eichstadt - Guitar
Cordell Crockett – Bass Guitar
Shannon Larkin - Drums
Zac Morris - Additional Drums
Sonny Mayo - Additional Guitars

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