IN PRAISE OF URUSEI YATSURA

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I like to think that most of the bands/singers featured on this blog are reasonably well known, as that saves me giving a detailed explanation of who they are (or were, in the event there’s been a break-up). As for today’s lot – well I’m sure the name at least might be familiar to many UK (and Japanese) readers, but less so to my friends across on the other side of the Atlantic. So here’s a little bio of Uruesi Yatsura.

It was back in 1994 that Fergus Lawrie, Graham Kemp, Ian Graham and Elaine Graham decided to form a band. They named it after a hugely popular Japanese comic book – one that has been given its own TV series and video game. The translation from Japanese into English seemingly is not straightforward….the band prefer it to mean ‘Noisy Stars’, but you have to admit that Urusei Yatsura is a far cooler name than Noisy Stars.

Anyway, the band started gigging at loads of small Glasgow venues and quickly gained a reputation for churning out loud guitar-driven short bursts of pop that had more than a hint of Sonic Youth about them.

Like so many others, their fame increased thanks to the support and patronage of John Peel, and following the inevitable session, they grabbed themselves a record deal with indie label Che Records. Between 1995 and 1998, they released eight singles and two albums before Che Records folded after an unfortunate tie-up with Warners went sour.

The fact that Che Records had gone under led to the band disappearing from view for the best part of two years, and it was very late on in 1999 before an EP came out on the Beggars Banquet label, and then in 2000, it was announced the band was setting up its own label in the shape of Oni Records. Two singles and one LP was all that emerged over the next 18 months before they called it a day.

As careers go, it was pretty reasonable. Over the course of 7 years, there were three LPs, the best part of a dozen 45s/EPs and a handful of other releases on compilation LPs as well as a one-off 45 with one Urusei Yatsura track b/w a track by The Delgados. They toured extensively, either as headliners or as main support to the likes of Garbage and Super Furry Animals.

In terms of commercial success, just the one single cracked the charts – it hit #40 for one week in February 1998.

But these words and stats don’t do real justice to Urusei Yatsura. They were largely an out and out pop band with a sound that was influenced by so many others but yet somehow seemed distinctive. I’ve already mentioned Sonic Youth in terms of the guitars….but there was also a hint of Pavement in respect of weird lyrics…there was glam-rock as evidenced by the Glitter Band style chants….there was the buzz and feedback of the Jesus & Mary Chain…..and still they could sound as melodic and delightful as Teenage Fanclub. And at a time when Glasgow was being dominated by the whimsy of the likes of Belle and Sebastian, it was great to have your ears occasionally assaulted…
Having given them such a great build-up, I hope you do find these tracks to your satisfaction:-

mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Hello Tiger (Peel Session)
mp3 : Uruesi Yatsura – Kewpies Like Watermelons
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Phasers On Stun
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Strategic Hamlets

If you like what you hear, you can probably track down the back catalogue on e-bay. I particularly recommend the 1998 LP, Slain by Urusei Yatsura.

Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “IN PRAISE OF URUSEI YATSURA

  1. Love ‘kewpies like watermelons’. I saw them at some festival back in the day. Best act of the weekend by far. Swc.

  2. Jim,

    You have bust my illusion today with the piece on Urusei Yatsura by explaining away the reason for the band name. I was convinced it was the best named band I had came across because I always to this day believed it came from Glasgow street slang let me explain

    Ur – are you
    Usei – always
    Yatsura- that sure of yourself that

    Joined up in English

    Are you always been that sure of yourself that !

    Glasgow street

    Have you always been such a cocky b@@@@###

    I prefer my version.

    Son of the rock.

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