Release Date: July 2, 2013, digitally and on limited edition 12” black-and-clear swirl vinyl EP
Reviewed by Brent D. Tharp
Local San Diego band Kut U Up* have chilled out. Apparently, it took a while. More than ten years have passed since they put out Pulled Over…Your Eyes Are Telling Me Different Son, and starred in the documentary Riding in Vans with Boys. Now, blowing in on a hot desert wind from a studio in El Cajon, comes the self-produced EP Worse Than Wolves. You’ll be surprised if you’re looking for a return to the in-your-face punk style of Pulled Over, which had some catchy melodies but mostly levels turned up to the point of distortion. This album shows a marked departure from the former release, exhibiting maturity while maintaining a punk sensibility. It’s only weak point is lyrically—some songs are overly repetitive or lacking in progression. This is countered by the strength of the music itself. I had expected there might be the typical thrashing about and indecipherable lyrics. Instead, lead singer Chris Cote has toned down his voice, and at this new, calmer level he sounds a bit like Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction). The band overall sounds tight and melodic, and seems quite focused on the work at hand.
Side A is the calmer side, with a reduced tempo and mostly subdued instrumentation. Standout songs include “Trust,” which has an eery, melancholy sound, and contrary to my earlier comment, is lyrically strong. “Shut It Down” is a rock protest, in the style of Red Rider or any of several similar bands. I personally like the vocal delivery and timing, and there’s some force to this one without going over the top—volume levels and pauses are well used. The closer on this side, the title track “Worse Than Wolves,” lacks the hooks and buildup that would have made it interesting or memorable.
Side B has more power, and a somewhat punkish sound (lyrically more than anything else—it’s a straight rock album, not a punk rock album), while maintaining melody and intricacy. “Last Time” is excellent, a straightforward rocker. Though the lyrics of “Give A Shit” are not particularly compelling, musically it is easily the best song on the album. The parts are layered and complex, with several time changes creating smooth transitions into and out of minor chords. In essence, the lyrics here diminish an otherwise great song. “Trap’s Set” is another solid rocker, with excellent playing and singing, and a nice bridge building to a big finish, for both the song and the album.
If you’re already a Kut U Up fan, then you will likely love this EP. If not, it’s a great choice if you like your music local and raw, with a bit of emotion thrown into the mix.
Band Lineup: Chris Cote (lead vocals, bass guitar); Brandon Parkhurst (guitar and vocals); Brendan Raasch (drums); Matt Amador (guitar). Website: kutuupmusic
Production: Recorded at Doubletime Recording Studio, El Cajon, CA; Engineered by Jeff Forrest, Doubletime Studio; Vinyl pressed by Erika Records, Inc., Downey, CA. Label: none; band-produced. More info: Discogs
* Sometimes spelled, alternatively, as Kut u Up, Kut-U-Up, or KUT-U-UP.
** Running times shown are for vinyl; digital times vary slightly from those shown.