"The Dumpster" with Chuck Trash -- "We Built the Wheel", Examining Uranium Club
[Released every Wednesday, “The Dumpster” is an official BadLuck Records editorial column written by Chuck Trash, our lead editor. While any topic within any sub-genre is fair game, this week Trash tackles the wildly eccentric and supremely talented Minneapolis post-punk outfit Uranium Club]
“We Built the Wheel”, Examining Uranium Club [8/7/19]
Every year, it becomes increasingly difficult to create and sell music for punk bands. Frequently, great albums go unheard by the vast majority of society because they are either marketed poorly or not accessible to the public ear. The entire idea of modern punk bands falling short of greatness is a toxic misconception. Some of the best punk of all time has undoubtedly been created in the past decade.
One of the advantages of creating music today is that pop music has now existed for so long that everything influences everything, even accidentally. It is tougher than ever to box certain acts in with a genre. Punk itself has been around since the ‘70s! One of the most refined examples of an original and well-executed modern punk band arrives to us in the form of the Minneapolis Uranium Club. Across a trio of studio albums (and one live recording), the four-piece punk band has proven that they are one of the strongest forces in rock n’ roll today.
“Human Exploration” (2016, Static Shock Records)
Released in January of 2016, the Club’s first EP, “Human Exploration”, serves as a directional stepping stone for the band’s catalog since. Opening with “Black Semen”, the EP immediately showcases their dynamic as a band. There are a good amount of post-punk bands that sound like Uranium Club, but very few that sound as skilled musically.
In terms of lyrical content, Uranium Club tends to be consistently satirical. Depending on the song, subjects often take on an oddly specific, mildly dramatized scenario to harmlessly poke fun at. Many of the songs feature stories that seem to only retain value in humor at first. After a few listens, it becomes apparent that most of the satire contains painfully realistic truth within, creating an aura of deeper meaning. There are some carefully layered statements about human nature buried in these tracks. For example, “Sun Belt”, the album’s closer, paints a vivid picture of the careless way people act in Las Vegas. Although that seems like a rather specific topic, it mirrors the disgust for humanity that trends as a common recurring theme across all three Uranium Club projects.
Another great aspect of the lyrical content on this record is that there is so much of it. The lyrics are straight forward and don’t require much thought to unpack, but the amount of words shouted across this record is abnormally high in a good way. The lyrics are always clever and never excessive or unnecessary, even at their goofiest.
“Human Exploration” is a killer first project for any band, and after seeing what else the Club has done since, it’s even easier to appreciate. This project is also the most punk/least experimental album in the Uranium Club catalog, providing a raw and easy listening experience as an introduction to the band. Check it out below via Bandcamp!
“All of them Naturals LP” (2016, Static Shock Records)
Not even a full year after the release of “Human Exploration”, Uranium Club dropped the “All of them Naturals LP”, which stands as their first full-length album. The amount of progression and growth that the band displays on this record is tremendous. They didn’t change their sound drastically between projects, but the Club does rely heavily on how well they play together as a unit. The songs on this album are more structured and complicated than their first EP. “All of them Naturals” bridges the gap between the straightforward punk rock on “Human Exploration” & the intricately crafted compositions on their most recent record, “The Cosmo Cleaners”.
In terms of superior playing, it feels like Uranium Club is almost showing off at times on this album. On nearly every minute across the 8-track LP, there are crazy melody changes that are unexpected but executed masterfully. One of the strongest examples of how in sync the band is can be heard in the opening minute and a half of “Operation Pt. II”, one of the stand-out tracks from the Club’s entire discography. The track opens with the same mesmerizing note pattern being played on a guitar for roughly 30 seconds. The band then kicks in and builds up a new melody for a few more measures of introductory chords, but then transitions seamlessly into an intense slow burn ripper for the rest of the song.
At the center of the full, hard-hitting sound of “Naturals” is drummer Matt Stagner, whose locked-in grooves give the band an almost hypnotizing sound. On tracks like “Who Made the Man?”, Stagner plays exceptionally fast but with unmatched precision. One of the high points of the entire album can be heard within Stagner’s fills on the aforementioned track. The way he moves back and forth between lengthy drum fills and standard 4/4 drum patterns makes such a complicated motion seem simple.
In terms of lyrical content, this album introduces a new character, Michael, who serves as the spokesperson for the Club. With his strong British accent, he opens the album via the “Introduction”. On the album intro, he reveals a narrative about the legacy of the Uranium Club and the positive work they have done to help the world as they simultaneously grow more successful. Michael also makes a significant appearance on their following LP, “The Cosmo Cleaners”, tying the fictional backstory of the Club together across two albums. Check out the masterpiece that is “All of them Naturals” below via Bandcamp!
“The Cosmo Cleaners” (2019, Static Shock Records)
There was a three year wait between “All of them Naturals” & “The Cosmo Cleaners”, which came out earlier this year. Somewhere in the midst of creating this album, Uranium Club almost completely abandoned being boxed-in as a punk band. By capitalizing on shifting time signatures and detailed rhythms across 7 new songs, the quartet continued to demonstrate the limitless possibilities of their unparalleled musicianship. Frankly, “The Cosmo Cleaners” is closer to Television’s post-punk archetype “Marquee Moon” than any potentially comparable punk rock record.
If the adrenaline driven drumming controlled the pace of the first two records, the lead and rhythm guitars step into the spotlight on several sections of this album. The drums naturally maintain the groove and continue to lock the listener into place, but the guitars almost battle each other at times, playing complex patterns frequently. Regardless, even when the two guitar parts logically seem like they would contradict one another, the band is so tight and together that the juxtaposition in rhythm creates an irreproachable affect.
One of the standout moments on this album appears directly in the middle of the LP, a seven-and-a-half minute track entitled “Michael’s Soliloquy”. Literally speaking, this track is a story. It contains the previously mentioned ‘Michael’ from “All of them Naturals” telling a fictional life-story that revolves around his ‘journey to the top’ as a well-mannered professional spokesperson. This may sound unappealing at first glance. Who would want to listen to a satirical story about nothing in a fake British accent for seven minutes? The answer to this question lies in the musical arrangement backing Michael’s monologue. As mentioned, the lead and rhythm guitarists have a way of playing off of each other, ultimately presenting the track as a highlight on this album. By the time the soliloquy ends, the weight of the listening experience lands heavier on two guitar parts that compliment each other perfectly.
Another highlight from “The Cosmo Cleaners” is a cliche track that has been made countless times by other bands; the quintessential car song, “Grease Monkey”. While so many artists have made songs about a specific car, this is no “Little Red Corvette”. Following the theme of frequently poking fun at societal norms, “Grease Monkey” plays like a self-aware satire about someone who is way too into their car. Once again, Uranium Club have a way of creating songs that are composed with superiority, even when they are thematically silly. Specifically, “Grease Monkey” pivots from the melody within the verse to the chorus with a complete change in tone. The chorus contains an infectiously fun set of gang vocals that chronologically count up by one before tearing into the bridge, giving the quartet a peak-DEVO influenced sound in the best way.
It may be early August, we may have four months left to the year, and I may be excessively biased, but “The Cosmo Cleaners” is without a doubt one of the best albums of the year so far. Furthermore, it is criminally underrated, not unlike the rest of the Uranium Club catalog. Give the full-length album a listen below via Bandcamp, and tune in next week for more cultural commentary buried deep within “The Dumpster”!