London – As far as musical collaborations go, the one that makes up the LA-based Upset is one which provokes more excitement than most. After a spell with Vivian Girls and Best Coast, the latter ending in a well-documented parting of ways, Ali Koehler has joined forces with La Sera guitarist Jenn Prince and Hole’s Patty Schemel to create a new band which has all the components of lo-fi indie greatness. Upset‘s first full length release “She’s Gone”, put out through New Jersey’s Don Giovanni Records has already seen one single’s video “You and I” explode across the blogosphere. How then does the rest of the album stack up?
The first thing you’ll notice when listening to the album in its entirety is its length, which at around 36 minutes is pretty damned short. However, despite the longest track being a grand total of 3:51 (“Phone Calls”) the album still packs a punch, for once proving the old adage that less can indeed be more. Opening with the immediately catchy “Back to School”, the music is everything you’d hope for from the lineup; simplistic, upbeat, honest and witty. It’s refreshing to hear female led vocals focus on what is being said, rather than how it’s being sung. Even more so when you tune in to the sincerity of the lyrics themselves, “I might be eighteen, and I don’t know anything, no I don’t know anything, but I know I’m the best thing that ever happened to you”.
Title track “She’s Gone” was put out on the Don Giovanni YouTube channel at the start of October and to date has received nothing but positive feedback – a rarity in the cruel world of YouTube reviewing. It’s also a fair critique on the likability of the track itself. Koehler again relives her teenage years on “Queen Frosteen”, an ode to a teenage rival, “Queen Frosteen my enemy, she’s everything and I’m nobody”, an anthem for the less popular kid in the high school corridors.
In truth the album is crying out to be used as a movie soundtrack to modern day cult classic. Would-be-directors need look no further than track such as “Never Wanna” and the brilliantly titled “Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur” for inspiration. It’s testament to the songwriting on “Don’t Sleep” that this quirky theme of the underdog spirit holds firm throughout the album, uniting teens and twenty-somethings alike in solidarity against the class cheerleader or quarterback.
“Don’t Sleep” is an album with very few surprises, which is a good thing. It’s got the maturity of a band that have been around the block, whilst maintaining the innocence of first-timers; that’s to say that there’s not an abundance of overplaying or an overuse of technology from people excited about cutting their first record in a proper studio. It’s restrained, yet still fun. If you were to guess influences or associations without prior knowledge, Best Coast and La Sera would no doubt be near the top of the list, probably along with Girls. There’s several properly catchy tracks, “Oxfords and Wingtips” my favourite, with there really being very little for anybody to dislike.
The band head out on a West Coast tour this week, joint-headlining with label-mates Screaming Females allowing plenty the chance to see the three piece up close and personal as they head down from Seattle to San Diego during the last few weeks of November. With just one (short) album to draw material from, don’t expect the longest show ever played, but it will be one to miss as the band will be playing in much larger venues in 2014.
And look at that, I didn’t even use the word ‘Supergroup’. Oh wait. Damn.