Exalted by their own operatic prog-glam ambitions, Ultrasound appeared in the late '90s as a violent reworking of the idiosyncratic compositions of Captain Beefheart and the staged ambisexual pop idioms of the likes of Gary Glitter and David Bowie. Andrew "Tiny" Wood (voice, guitar), Richard Green (bass), Pete Haslem (keyboards), and Andy Peace (drums) had splintered away from Newcastle's Sleepy People in February of 1994 in hopes to break the pulsing London circuit, starting off with the inauspicious moniker of Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal. After a self-titled debut EP on Org Records, the band replaced Haslem with Matt Jones and drafted in Vanessa Best for bass, forcing Green to take up lead guitar and giving the band enough reason to brand themselves the more commercial-friendly name, Ultrasound.
In many ways, Green's switch of instruments represented an important turnaround. As a new lead guitarist, he steered the band away from the more esoteric chaos of their Newcastle roots, heard in ribald detail on the band's first single under the Ultrasound banner, 1997's "Same Band" for Fierce Panda, and kept the band refueled during a series of NME-sponsored events for unsigned bands, thereby putting the group in the position to land a deal with Nude Records following a bidding war. The Sony-financed label meant more coverage in the British music press, and by the time Ultrasound issued the aggressive "Best Wishes" and "Stay Young" singles in 1998, many already earmarked the band's early affinity with the pleasures of fandom and its manic enthusiast trappings. With consistently positive reviews in their pocket and an ever-growing fan base behind them, Ultrasound went off to play a triumphant set at 1998's Glastonbury Festival and were later singled out as another big, bright hope for British music.
However, the long delay before their debut album surfaced; the sprawling double-disc, triple-LP Everything Picture, had transformed new friends into enemies. By the spring of 1999, negative reviews for the album began to flow, criticizing its overreach, and audiences dwindled, feeling that their patience was abused. For a band that excelled on big gestures, Ultrasound went into a period of self-constructed collapse. A series of live dates were scuppered, including their crucial T in the Park appearance, and each cancellation was followed by claims of a band busy at work on a sophomore LP and the impossibility of a group on the verge of a split. Nonetheless, on October 12, 1999, the band issued a statement that Ultrasound were no more.
Amidst the ruins of the band, several follow-up projects emerged. Richard Green started the Somatics; Matt Jones went off to form Minuteman; Vanessa Best recorded a number of solo demos; and Wood tried to reform a new Ultrasound along with Andy Peace, old friend Andy Taylor, ex-Sleepy People bassist Bill "Cowboy" Bailey, and keyboardist Carlie. Ultrasound mach II made their re-debut at the Newcastle Arts Centre in the spring of 2000, even popped into a studio from time to time, but this would be the last anybody heard from them. By the summer of 2001, Wood appeared unattached from his new Ultrasound incarnation and returned full circle to lend his talents to the recording of Blue Apple Boy's debut LP, a product of a band previously, and not too surprisingly, known as Sleepy People. ~ Dean Carlson, Rovi
Nov 30 WednesdayLondon, UK Scala