When: Fri., Nov. 21, 9 p.m. 2014
music | UGLY AMERICANS | FRIDAY, NOV. 21
THE POUR HOUSE, RALEIGH—After a few reunion gigs and a quick recording session this summer, area '80s punk standouts the Ugly Americans are back in earnest—well, kind of. State lines still separate the band itself from frontman Simon Bob Sinister, but they've got a new reason to get more active: Panopticon, a new EP and the first Ugly Americans material released in almost three decades.
Recorded with Corrosion of Conformity producer John Custer, Panopticon seems to shrink the timespan between the band's prime and their restart. The lyrics are 2014-topical, moving from genetically modified foodstuffs to NSA intrusion. But the sound is classic Ugly. Danny Hooley's lead guitar sizzles, borrowing from surf and thrash alike. Drummer Jon McClain and bassist Chris Eubank generate momentum and mete power with precision. And Sinister expertly toes the line between melody and aggression.
In their younger days, Ugly Americans refused to work inside any sense of punk orthodoxy. They'd dabble in surf and metal, novelty playfulness and pointed commentary, all with equal finesse. That proved to be both an asset and liability, but that quality remains on Panopticon, where the Ugly Americans are as playful and pissed as ever. Closer "Pony Picture," for instance, boasts a punchy hook that might've been an alternate-universe hit on The Offspring's Smash, with lyrics that view toys as a surrogate for a lack of parental affection. "Children of the GMO Corn" is timestamped by the title, but it uses its '80s horror reference to great effect. Given the continued success of veteran hardcore revivalists like OFF! and heavy music's current love of post-modern genre dabbling, the time might be right for Ugly Americans' updated approach to their old irreverence.
Greensboro's Totally Slow, a band of punk vets who share the Uglies' affections for big hooks and occasional surf-guitar licks, take the middle slot. They follow Raleigh's explosive, grinding Old Codger. Admission includes a copy of Panopticon. 9 p.m., $10–$12, 224 S. Blount St., 919-821-1120, the-pour-house.com. —Bryan C. Reed