Pop Goes the Ultratone
A World With No Pain (DaDork Records)
By Kevin Gibson (Louisville Music News)
Imagine a world with no pain; is it Utopia? Is it truly perfection? Or is it a dull and sterile place, devoid of the emotional waves that make us feel things deeply?
A World With No Pain, Ultratone's latest, is a concept album about a far-away future society that has learned how to live without any form of pain - and the efforts of another civilization to take it down. War ensues, bringing with it untold amounts of pain for all involved.
Yes, this is a story about the reality of pain and how it grounds us in reality - not the ramblings of a hippie wishing for everyone to just get along. The premise may not be genius or even particularly groundbreaking, but as a piece of music, the story premise works.
More than anything, A World With No Pain is a beautifully crafted album, a sonic triumph that draws on elements of pop, rock, techno and prog rock. Frontman Joe Scheirich weaves a tapestry built on gorgeous melodies and held together by layers of sweet vocals and instrumentation that almost become characters in the story.
A perfect example is the lilting "The Secret (Don't Make a Sound)," which could almost be a marriage between the darker side of the Scottish band Travis and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys - with a little Tears for Fears thrown in for flavor.
Perhaps most interestingly is that while the songs stand alone, the individual pieces manage to fully form into one whole that spans more than an hour. On its own, the aforementioned song might seem a bit lengthy at six minutes, 46 seconds, but in the context of the album, it nearly doesn't seem long enough.
Then there is "That's How You Feel," a perfectly crafted power pop song with hook you won't escape from. This could be a lost track from a Posies album.
Honestly, it takes balls to attempt a project like A World With No Pain - a failure here is an epic failure. Scheirich not only proves he has balls, but he and his band pull the task off and then some. Spend an hour with this, and you'll feel no pain at least for while.
Summer Is A-Comin' Back In
A Long Year (DaDork)
By Tim Roberts (Louisville Music News)
With apologies to the ghost of the anonymous Medieval English poet: Summer is a-comin' in / Loudly plays the Ultratone / Strummeth guitar, from seasons afar / Tiring of winter's moan.
Fortunately, you'll find a better set of words and a great deal of fun, breezy sounds in Ultratone's third release A Long Year, where the band presents us once again with a generous selection of clean, melodic power-pop, where romance and longing are also kneaded in. Once again, the band fills its songs with an ambience - like the warm, nondescript hiss from AM radio - that fills all the spaces between the notes and rhythms.
While the Ultratone trademark sound is in all the songs (especially the opening track "Headed For the Sun"), the band has worked more subtle musical touches in a few others: the flange, back-masked vocal effects in "The Hit that Never Hit," a detour into club rhythms and synthesizers in "The Orbit" (which is asking for a techno remix) and the warbling electronic piano behind "One Fine Day," that has a sound as if it had been written during a course taught at the James Pankow/Robert Lamm Horns 'n' Vocals School of Pop.
The song "Fight For Peace" contains a nice surprise. Looking at the title and hearing the first few instrumental bars (only acoustic guitar, tambourine and sticks clacking together), you might think it is a bed-in peace anthem along the lines of John and Yoko's "Give Peace a Chance." The lyrics, however, are ambiguous. Is the song about a conflict between a couple? Is it a political dialogue? Is it a commentary on the problems of the world? The band seems to be leaving it up to the listener's ears.
A feature story on the band (along with a review of their previous release Pass It Along) appeared in these pages nearly two years ago. In it, their sound was described as "ultra-summery," the kind of music you have on the car radio as you cruise around the city on a warm evening with your windows open. In A Long Year, Ultratone has, once again, packed its songs with that sound.
It is a reminder that summer is coming in.
2nd album "PASS IT ALONG"
THE ULTRASUMMERY ULTRASOUNDS OF ULTRATONE
By Tim Roberts, Louisville Music News 9/05
Read the article
and the review
Ultratone brings pure, simple pop:
Review by Chris Quay, Velocity Magazine Aug 10-16
"Pass It Along," Ultratone
The Louisville group's second full-length album oozes wispy pop rock and sentimental imagery, but never tries to overachieve.
Joe Scheirich, who writes most of the music and lyrics, keeps it simple and beautifully shows that minimalism is just as effective as experimentation.
Tossing aside over-exaggeration, Ultratone strings together 13 songs that are just plain pure and stimulating.
The title track is a pop ballad that has Scheirich pleading inside a surging chorus, "Why are we afraid to see a smile anyway/We need more love today." "Burning Daylight" is a moving alt-country jaunt, and "Where Did You Go" and "Over the Waves" could be emotional Brit-pop at its essence.
The acoustic balladry on "Right on Time" winds things down, and the sultry piano-driven "Towards the Sun" finishes off an otherwise diamond-in-the-rough album.
How much that diamond is sparkling could be due to WFPK naming "Pass It Along" as an album of the week back in the middle of July.
On the surface, it's just reassuring to know that a talented guy like Scheirich is out there making music that aspires to more than simply filling a popular niche.
Ultratone - Pass It Along: Smother.net 7/05
Hook-laden "Pass It Along" pickles pop-rock with catchy vocals and lyrics that undermine thousands of therapy sessions. What's most amazing is that this is merely their debut, imagine what could happen five albums from now? Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Ultratone makes their own slugger out of infectious pop hooks that you'll be humming bars of weeks after your initial listen. Ultratone is a refreshing change in pace from the plethora of mainstream artists today.
1st album "ULTRATONE"
Return of Joe: Review by James Bickers, Courier-Journal 4/26/03
Ultratone's wonderful debut album could not have come at a better time. For those of us who have totally burned ourselves out on the most recent Coldplay disc, Ultratone is the next logical obsession. Expect it to stay in your car stereo for months. The six-piece band is led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Joe Scheirich. Fans of the vastly under-appreciated Louisville band Joe's Report need no reminder of the man's songwritting skills -- he deftly combines pop/rock catchiness with a tremendous depth of meaning and makes it look easy.
These are not mere hook-fests that grab the ears on first listen only to lose their appeal after the third or fourth. They might take a few spins to get under your skin but once there are not likely to leave anytime soon. A melancholy vibe runs throughout; even the upbeat songs are laced with a compelling seriousness. "Ultratone" is thoughtful but never weepy, introspective but never maudlin.
"Hangover," "Never Get You Back" and a few other cuts rock in the old Joe's Report fashion -- thick and fuzzy sound, a stylistic blend of Jeff Buckley and latter-day King Crimson. The rest of the disc is more modern, crisp and brightly produced. "Come On" and "Loser's Club" are particularly excellent, but the standout track is the final one: "The Girl That Never Was," a heartbreaking ode to what-might-have-been. It begins as a simple vocal-and-guitar lament, but suddenly morphs into a lovely rock waltz. True lump-in-the-throat material and a perfect encapsulation of Scheirich's style: emotion, intelligence and class.
Even a Restraining Order Can't Help You: Review by Kory Wilcoxson, Louisville Music News, July 2003
After one listen, I decided Ultratone's debut disc didn't have anything to offer. After two listens, I found one or two songs that stuck out. After three listens, I was subconsciously humming half the disc. That's the way Ultratone's music works: it's cool rhythms and covert hooks sneak up on you and before you know it the disc has been in your CD player two months.
Ultratone is led by Joe Scheirich, who formerly fronted the local band Joe's Report. The whole disc is WFPK-ready; the songs are short on bells and whistles and long on heartfelt songwritting that goes beyond surface emotions to capture the bittersweet essence of things like being in and out of love.
The best two cuts, "Loser's Club" and "Once in a While," kick off the disc and come closest to having sing-along hooks. The rest of the album is strictly Adult Alternative, a sound that Ultratone has nailed, as it moves through melancholy tracks like "Never Get You Back" and "The Girl That Never Was."
There's certainly nothing cheery about Ultratone and even the more upbeat songs like "Hangover" have a taste of sadness to them. But Ultratone doesn't dip into sappiness or fake self-pity; instead it mirrors the common laments of life with emotional depth and beautiful sincerity.
ULTRATONE: Review by Michael W. Bright LEO 7/2/03
We all have our favorite rainy day music. It evolves from - and in turn, accompanies - the kind of delisiously indulgent introspection that causes us to make an unnecessary trip around the block so the song ends before we park the car. Louisville's Ultratone has come up with a handful of stellar stormy weather selections on their debut release.
Singer-songwriter-producer Joe Scheirich and friends marry melancholy moods to bouyant acoustic guitars and dovetailed harmonies on the catchy and unforgetable "Loser's Club" which welcomes the weary and opens the album. Hello, hi, how are you now? Sit right down, got a place by the fire. Have a drink, we all could use it now, we sympathize.
So you can see it's very cozy spending a little time with Ultratone. Remember and shed a tear for "The Girl Who Never Was". Their idea of a "Lovely Day" is the same as mine: The rain is on it's way. You and I should just hole up here today. Don't get the wrong idea: It may rain and there are tears, but we are not whiners here. The songwritting is strong, mature and versitile, and it allows the band to flaunt it's polished style and ultra-sharpened hooks. The production is occasionally cluttered. Ultratone's multi-layered approach sometimes clouds arrangements and masks lyrics that would benefit from a more stripped-down sound. But this is a club I'm joining, and I expect to stay for a while. Check them out yourself: Ultratone plays July 5 at Gerstle?s Place.
"I've been a big fan of Joe Scheirich's music since his earlier band Joe's Report. His songs are consistently
brilliant, mature, and thoughtful.
Ultratone deserves superstardom."
WFPK 91.9 FM
"Pass It Along by Ultratone is not only the best local release of 2005 but one of the best albums of 2005 anywhere! It will definitly be in my top ten list for the year."
WFPK 91.9 FM
Best of Louisville
"Best DJ" 2005