Uhhh Sort Of
he very 90s explosion of laptops, turntables, dirty guitars and promiscuous production values undoubtedly left a legacy. Commonplace were art school kids dressing hipper-than-thou and talking about music from some new-fangled creative perspective that they didn’t really understand. The possibilities presented by the art-rockers, the turntablists and the genre-hopping post-grad set were exciting, for sure, but those who felt that excitement were naturally compelled to suppress that wonder, fearful of showing anything other than indifference. All of a sudden bands just weren’t cool, guitars went from icon to instrument after the fall of Britpop (Oasis were now heroic in ticket/album sales only, Pulp and Blur had sensed and seized the creative sea change) and the critics’ choices started to matter once more.
But now is not the time to deal with the universal. I’m ignorant of the specific timings, but I imagine that while all this was going on Max Wood was a teenage boy coming to terms with the death of his mother, and beginning to create the intensely personal music that became Uhhh Sort Of. Introverted to the point of unlistenable, it seems that regardless of (in spite of? because of?) the loss Max was suffering in his personal life, he was still keeping an ear on the sounds musicians like Beck were making. And while there’s nothing amongst this intimate ruin of mourning, self-exploration, and geek-sex that one could call a development on such artists’ ideas, there’s an endearing determination to create something valid, if not all that coherent.
A trashy keyboard beat and bassline open the LP, with the sort of basement approach you’d expect from your friends down the street who want to be in a band but “don’t know how to play instruments”—as Wood himself confesses in the first few seconds. He begins to tell us his story in lyrical fragments, in between a “Choose Life”-esque diatribe of social commentary, surely with a nod to the Beastie Boys’ vocal arrangements. There’s so much angst in these grooves, amidst the goofball funk samples and tickertape loops, that it becomes almost difficult to say how it makes you feel. A lot of the time Uhhh Sort Of is so amateurish as to be annoying, full of pseudo-philosophy (“Art is nothing but a thought manifest,” “Popular music brings nothing to the human experience,” etc.) and sexual frustration.
But there’s beauty and honesty here, too. “Let’s Make My Bed” is full of sweet glockenspiels and lovelorn, hopeless attempts at seduction, with none of the juxtapositions of irony or attention-seeking that has a tendency to take away from the experience. Perhaps it’s best to look upon Uhhh Sort Of as a sink-block, something that Max Wood had to get out of his system before he could function as an adult, and maybe even a musician. It’s disturbing to hear him chanting along with his band the words, “I love you Mom, please don’t die,” but it’s heartening that on the longwave radio sound of closer “Point Oh Seven,” Wood appears to have pep-talked himself into positivity: “I have a point. I have to live. I cannot die.” Even if there are only a few glimmers of great achievement here, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Reviewed by: Colin Cooper
Reviewed on: 2005-08-24