Utah Saints – Two

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Album Reviews by Mark Bayross and EDF

Two PHASE9 reviewers wanted to review this album so in the style of the title here are TWO reviews

Review by Mark Bayross

Not many people know this, but despite its title this is actually the third album recorded by Utah Saints. After their huge-selling debut, they went into the studio and spent a year crafting a follow-up, only to fall foul of record company wrangles and for it never to see the light of day.

Fortunately that experience seems to have made them stronger, because, as this year’s flurry of increasingly good singles has shown, Jez Willis and Tim Garbutt are back in business. TWO is an album of beat-heavy confidence and spellbinding beauty.

Contained within are the three singles so far – an extended, trancier LOVE SONG; the fantastic Edwin Starr-fronted FUNKY MUSIC; and the awesome POWER TO THE BEATS. The latter is particularly of interest, as it features a sample of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” welded onto a floor-shaking beat, with the vocal icing on the cake provided by none other than Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

Quite how the Leeds duo managed to get the two most vociferous protagonists in the biggest music row of the year, the Napster debate, to participate on the same track is beyond me. But then Jez and Tim have been quietly winning the hearts and minds of some of the biggest names in the music industry since they started. Their early singles sampled everyone from Kate Bush and Annie Lennox to Slayer and Front 242, and not only won them legions of fans, but the support of those whose music they appropriated.

The band also managed to attract the attention of one Michael Stipe, who had declared his support for them in numerous interviews. Jez and Tim contacted Stipe, who has said in the NME that he was “really honoured” that they asked him to contribute to the album. They recorded him rambling down the telephone, then cut his speech up, and have scattered it across four tracks on the album: from the opening SUN to the closing WIGGEDY WACK, and in the middle on PUNK CLUB and RHINOCEROS.

Other famous names on TWO include Chrissie Hynde, whose robotised voice is almost unrecognisable on LOST VAGUENESS (possibly the next single) and Iggy Pop, who is sampled on the frantic TECHKNOWLEDGY (reworked from the soundtrack to the AVENGERS and described by the band as “a statement of intent”). In addition, MASSIVE and THREE SIMPLE WORDS are re-workings of tracks from the lost second album.

The rest of the album comprises rich, textured melody and thumping beats, a synthesis of Moby and Kraftwerk that somehow manages to sound very Utah Saints. At times, like on the four-minute-long B777, the electronics morph into something so devastatingly pretty that you’ll wish the music would never stop.

This is an incredible album, one that grows on you with every listen and takes in everything from reflective serenity to guitar-thrashing heaviness, often effortlessly flipping from one to the other in the space of one song.

I can’t wait for THREE…

5 stars

Review by EDF

While the title TWO might just point out the obvious that this is their second album released, it could also be taken to mean that there are only two people in Utah Saints and not three. You might be mistaken in thinking that Michael Stipe had joined the group. PHASE9 had interviewed the Utah Saints a few months back so check it out for the full explanation as to why Michael Stipe is spread across the album.

Starting with SUN, one of four tracks featuring Stipe, it rolls into the single POWER TO THE BEATS featuring Chuck D and a sampled Metallica, it is clear to see that Utah Saints have their own style. Lost Vagueness is as good as anything Moby has done but you get a feeing that these tracks were recorded not with a commercial gain in mind, not as much as Moby would.

While most of these tracks are not of the big beat/dance style, the tracks here are a step forward from the debut album. SICK throws up the idea that clubbers, people of the night are sick. Depending on your mood when listening to this track, I personally find it hilarious. It also sounds like something The Prodigy would come up with.

All the tracks here are enjoyable and one would hope that we don’t have to wait another seven years for the next album. To two of the nicest people in the music business I have had the pleasure to interview, I hope this sells bucket loads.

6 stars