I remember it as if it were only 25 years ago... seeing the video for Ultra Vivid Scene's "Staring at the Sun" for the first time on 120 Minutes. I was endeared almost instantly to it's mildly hazy, bittersweet template - an artful, chilled-out pop song accessible enough for the mainstream but smart enough for more discriminating tastes. For better or worse, only the latter really latched onto the S.S. UVS, commandeered by the soft spoken Kurt Ralske, a UK transplant who took up residence in New York.
"Staring..." was a single culled from an even greater body of work, UVS's sophomore full length Joy 1967-1990, the title of which is a considerable misnomer. It's not a decades spanning compilation by any stretch, rather a dozen songs that were recorded contemporary to it's release, with vague nuances and glints evoking the flower power era. At any rate, Ralske and Co. could do no wrong on Joy..., so much so that I probed a couple of that's album attendant "maxi singles" (i.e. eps). "Special One" also appearing on Joy... boasted a hook as stirring as "Staring," and featured Kim Deal on backing vocals to boot. The Special One ep boasts three non-LP cuts including the percussion-heavy, synth manipulated "Kind of a Drag," and the sparse and fragmentary "A Smile and a Death Wish." It's easy to discern why these were left as b-sides.
The tracks padding out Staring at the Sun fare a bit better. Here we get a remix of Joy's... buzzing "Three Stars," a re-recording of "Crash," which originally saw the light of day on UVS' 1988 debut, and a cover of Marianne Faithfull's "Something Better."
Since I'm such a nice guy, I'm padding this set with a four-track bonus disk that accompanied certain copies of the third and final Ultra Vivid Scene long-player, 1992's Rev. Despite it's streamlined modus operadi Rev's often jammy and heady inclinations never fully sank in with this set of ears. Typically, I got more out of the ep I'm presenting here than the album itself. It contains among other selections a remix of one of Rev's more stimulating excerpts, "Blood and Thunder," and a reinterpretation of "Winter Song," originally penned by John Cale for Nico's Chelsea Girl album.
All three Ultra Vivid Scene albums are available from iTunes and Amazon, and are worthy of your perusal, especially if you enjoy what I've provided. Support the man! Also, prior to UVS, Kurt Ralske was involved in Crash, a combo you can check out here.
Staring at the Sun ep
01. Staring at the Sun
03. Three Stars (*** version)
04. Something Better
Special One ep
01. Special One
02. Lightning (72 b.p.m./4 a.m.)
03. Kind of a Drag
04. A Smile and a Death Wish
Rev bonus CD (1993)
01. Blood and Thunder (Remix Edit)
02. Candida (Theme from "Red Pressure Mounting")
03. Don't Look Now (Now!)
04. Winter Song