Ugly Kid Joe – Uglier Than They Used Ta Be


Put the needle down and let the record play…

Review by Allan Jones

Nuclear Blast

Release Date: 2 October 2015

It’s been a long time since the last Ugly Kid Joe album came out – twenty years in fact, their last studio album Motel California came out in 1996. That album also featured a guy called Tim Wheater who I once spent several weekends with in Wales on a residential course about 15 years ago. True story. From the heights of their début As Ugly As They Wanna Be EP which is still (apparently) the highest selling début EP of all time, a cover of ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ which spent 20 weeks in the top 100 and sold over half a million copies in the US alone, and the gloriously raucous ‘Everything About You’, the Motel California album tanked, and the band split.

This, then, is their big comeback album. Immediately, Whitfield Crane’s vocal grabs you like an old friend you’ve not heard from in years. The band as a whole is now seven members strong, though – three guitarists (Klaus Eichstadt, Sonny Mayo, Dave Fortman), two drummers (Shannon Larkin and Zac Morris) and Cordell Crockett on bass. Just for fun, Phil Campbell of Motorhead also turns up on a few tracks (including a cover of ‘Ace of Spades’) and there’s a great cover of ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ featuring Dallas Frasca which closes the album out too.

Their old sense of humour is still very much apparent despite the swelling of the ranks, and the lyrics “Don’t you rewind to yesterday – put the needle down and let the record play” from the second track on the album ‘Let The Record Play’ state it pretty clearly that they just want you to listen to what they’re doing now. And you know what? While it’s still UKJ, it’s them all grown up and not relying on those past glories to serve up some pretty damn fine rock (even if they did choose to re-use the opening riff in ‘Hell Ain’t Hard To Find’ and ‘Under The Bottom’ for some odd reason).

Their usual self-deprecating lyrics are still in plentiful supply, but they’ve matured gracefully along the way with ballads like ‘Mirror Of The Man’ and ‘Enemy’ proving that there’s more going on than just silliness and fun, too. The guitar work switches from slick acoustic work to funky grooves to heavy metal, crunchy cock rock riffing and soaring solos with no sense of strain – this is an immensely talented band enjoying what they do, and it really comes across in the music. The same is true of Crane’s vocals, too – there’s more depth, more resonance, and more control this time around. This is the seasoned ageing of a rough, young bourbon into something deeply complex and satisfying, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Ugly-Kid-Joe-Uglier-Than-They-Used-Ta-Be8 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Hell Ain’t Hard To Find
  2. Let The Record Play
  3. Bad Seed
  4. Mirror The Man
  5. She’s Already Gone
  6. Nothing Ever Changes
  7. My Old Man – Featuring Phil Campbell
  8. Under The Bottom – Featuring Phil Campbell
  9. Ace of Spades – Featuring Phil Campbell
  10. Enemy