Young psychedelic sextet the Uglysuit construct big, catchy, sunny pop songs. The good-time feeling’s something the Oklahoma City band clearly embraces: Sunflowers cover their eyes in one of their promo photos, another picture depicts a field of the plants in bloom. The words “psychedelic” and “Oklahoma” may evoke the Flaming Lips, but on the Uglysuit’s self-titled Touch & Go debut, the guitar atmospherics, piano, keyboard, and layered voices backing frontman Israel Hindman are more comparable to a happier take on another Ugly band: Isaac Brock’s Ugly Casanova. For all the elements, it’s also a strikingly clean sound. The group’s reportedly played together since their early teens, which could account for the seamlessness, as well as their ability to pull off the tracks shorthanded and without any help from the studio.
The premise of our new series Decomposed is to invite bands to perform in a stripped-down environment. In the Uglysuit’s case, the six-piece becomes a three-piece and album standout “Chicago” becomes less anthemic and more insular and sad. On record, “Brownblue’s Passing” propels itself with orchestral swells and instrumental flourishes; here, it’s a knotty, folk ballad. And while the upbeat, marching “Iceland” makes use of Olivia Tremor Control/early oM vocal effects on The Uglysuit, in this unplugged rendition, Hindman & Co. sound just as good and gain a certain emotional rawness without the studio cushion. Sometimes when a band unplugs, it magnifies weaknesses. Other times, as happens here, it deepens your understanding of the group, adding a depth to material you thought you knew pretty well.