REVIEW: ULTRABOMB – DYING TO SMILE (2024)

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It sounds like the start of a joke, but what happens when Greg Norton (Hüsker Dü), Finny McConnell (The Mahones), and Jamie Oliver (UK Subs) decide to make an album?

The answer is they write songs like “Doggo,” which arguably has my favourite hook of the year: “My dog died, then I cried and bought another one.”

Sorted. I would add that nothing ever replaced my childhood friend Bessie when she passed, but I imagine it’s all about personal perspective.

Anyway, if you can’t top perfection, then you can have a go, and the rest of “Dying To Smile” has a damn good go.

This is Ultrabomb’s second record, and like the first, it’s packed full of melody and choruses. “Who Knows” finds some proper harmony too.

And, okay, we’ve laughed with the first one, but this both barks and bites. Energy abounds, and if they were all having fun with the likes of “Never Better,” then they took making the music incredibly seriously, it seems.

There are some Celtic flavours to “It’s Now,” as you’d sort of guess, but it’s not beholden to their other jobs, as it were. “Isolation” (and I was expecting a Joy Division cover) slows the pace to almost balladic, but almost to prove they can, they follow that with “Sleep Tight.” The weirdest lullaby ever, it’s as raw and punk as this gets.

There’s a bit of The Damned on “Woke Wars,” which takes a look at 2024 and doesn’t appear overly impressed, and there’s a proper lip-curl about “Just Cut.” “Just cut the bullshit,” it suggests. Not a bad idea to be fair to it, and the fact that this is deceptively catchy is underlined yet again by “Haunted.”

Finny McConnell might be singing Norton’s lyrics here, but his guitar playing makes “West In The Summertime” and the maelstrom of “Rage Bomb,” which made it such a special taster for the album, no less impressive now that the full-length is on view.

The last one might be called “In A Rut,” yet so dirty does it sound that it’s the last thing this trio is. Indeed, “Dying To Smile” brims with ideas as much as it overflows with skill.

“A supergroup” does not seem particularly punk rock, but that is what Ultrabomb is. They are exploding here on their terms, mind you.

Rating: 8.5/10

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