Urusei Yatsura - You Are My Urusei Yatsura (Rocket Girl)

Urusei Yatsura – You Are My Urusei Yatsura (Rocket Girl)

Hailing from Glasgow, Urusei Yatsura were a going concern from 1993 – 2001, but this set of beautifully dishevelled BBC session recordings is all drawn from their imperial period of 1996 – 1998, when they ruled the airwaves, (well, on the Peel show anyway), and had an actual, real, bona fide Top 40 hit in ‘Hello Tiger’.

It’s interesting that the band have chosen to mark the 20th anniversary of their first full album, We Are Urusei Yatsura, with an album compiling takes of tracks recorded for the John Peel Show, Evening Session and Radio Scotland, rather than a straightforward ‘Singles’ compilation (they released 13, including splits with MogwaiThe Delgados and Alex Kapranos’ pre-fame band The Blisters). The band have stated though that they prefer some of the BBC recordings to the released versions, with guitarist / vocalist Graham Kemp of the opinion that the Peel version of debut single ‘Siamese’ featured here is the best one that was ever captured.

‘Plastic Ashtray’ (their fifth single) kicks off the album and is a confident version of the track, if anything sounding more polished than the ‘official’ version. ‘First Day On A New Planet’ follows and is the only track taken from their first Peel Session of April 1996 – the first by any band since The Undertones to be recorded outside of Maida Vale (Peel himself arranged for them to record in Glasgow as they had no amps or money to get to London!) It is a perfect example of the band’s Pavement influence which permeates much of their work; you could imagine it sitting comfortably on Slanted and Enchanted. They were no mere copycats though; the band had a real charm and it is mostly their use of unconventional lyrics and subject matter that bring to mind Stephen Malkmus’ lo-fi heroes.

‘Kewpies Like Watermelon’ is the oldest take here, from a BBC Scotland show in 1995, and is a really great version – the band had just learned the song at the time of recording and their enthusiasm for the new track shines through.

An early Peel version of the aforementioned chart hit ‘Hello Tiger’ lacks a tiny bit of the sonic punch of the regular version but still sounds wonderful, while follow-up ‘Slain By Elf’ features here is a more laid-back version than the incendiary single version.

The album closes with a track written especially for the July 1997 Peel Session, ‘Dice / Nae Dice’ and is the longest and least immediate song here, coming across (vocals apart) like something that The Wedding Present might have done around the time of Seamonsters, i.e. a little time needs to be invested into it before it truly sinks in.

You Are My Urusei Yatsura acts as both a useful introduction for newcomers to the band and an interesting alternative career retrospective for long-time fans, though it could be suggested that a ‘Singles’ album, with this as a bonus disc, may have been even more effective. Plus, that way, the fabulous ‘Strategic Hamlets’ 45, surely the best thing the band ever committed to (sparkly) vinyl, could have featured too.

You Are My Urusei Yatsura is out now on CD, download an neon pink vinyl through Rocket Girl.

[Rating : 7]

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