The crossover into dance music was once a bold direction for a heavy rock band to take as a group of self-respecting musicians. Prior to that time, the division between the two genres was so wide that the idea of merging them in any way was practically unthinkable. There were guitars and drums; and then there was the other stuff - keyboards, samplers, drum machines etc. The two just weren’t intended to be used together. And the fans on either side of the fence seemed happy for it to stay that way. Since then, bands such as Pitchshifter, through to Enter Shikari and Pendulum, have managed to blend the opposing styles by taking the main characteristics of each genre and fusing them together, while still following traditional song structures. This trick proved popular and the same elements of electronic music continue to be used by young guitar bands - a method that lead to the dawning of the so-called “New Rave” era a few years back.
As you begin listening to ‘Burn This’, the debut album from South-East London’s Ubermanoeuvre, you may become suspicious that they are the latest act to jump on the electronic-rock bandwagon. The intro to the album’s opener and title track is an “Old School rave” synth loop that leads into some heavy rock guitar riffs and Rage Against The Machine-style rapping. Unfortunately, this is the sign of an unconvincing start as the music continues to sound more and more familiar.
However, once the album gets past the first few faltering minutes, the appeal of Ubermanoeuvre grows and their sound appears to develop. Throughout the following tracks, the band explore a number of different styles and it’s a relief to see them move beyond the dance/metal approach, which they are occasionally in danger of exceeding. Elsewhere on the album, the group can be heard using elements of ska, funk, hip-hop and punk, all of which are played alongside frontman John Lumley’s rapped vocals. In terms of musical diversity, stand-out songs are ‘Never Bring Your Girlfriend Flowers’, featuring a jazzy piano tune, and ‘Now! That’s What I Call Karma’, which could be a Madness song with a heavy guitar riff and more RATM-like screaming.
Lumley’s rapping, while sounding amateurish, is pleasantly playful in a manner not dissimilar to early Beastie Boys stuff. The lyrics he sings are powerfully political and are vocalised passionately. The only downside, of course, is that it’s all been done before.
Ubermanoeuvre have made a good effort at a diverse and energetic rock album. The way that they have mixed together all of their favourite sounds is admirable and very enjoyable in places. However, the styles that they use sound dated too often and the overpowering blend of genres occasionally verges on irritating. ‘Burn This’ is a fun record, but it isn’t fresh enough to be interesting and it isn’t brave enough to be clever.