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Universal Malcontents

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Album Review

Nine albums in, and Outrageous Cherry still find ways of making their vintage-steeped music sound fresh on Universal Malcontents — by exploring other classic sounds. Matthew Smith and crew know their rock history inside and out, and know how to evoke early to mid-'70s pop and rock atmosphere, from the album's warm, roomy sound to its double-tracked vocals, strutting guitars, handclaps, and piles of piano and organ. There are a couple of quintessential Outrageous Cherry moments of fuzzed-out garage pop with bittersweet melodies and smart lyrics, like the reverb-laden "I Wouldn't Treat My Enemies the Way You Treat Yourself" and the album closer "Memory," which compares memories to horror movies and once again proves this band is expert at putting a sugary, crunchy coating on sour feelings. The rest of Universal Malcontents, however, finds them casting farther afield. "I Recognized Her" borrows a bit of Sparks' and Roxy Music's synth-tinged glam, giving a sharp, sci-fi edge to Smith's always-witty songwriting. Meanwhile, "Anymore" dresses up its hooks in '70s AM pop balladry, another apt setting for Smith's way with song structure and wordplay ("Feels Like Shadows" is also a fine example); "The Song Belongs to Everyone" adds a bit of boogie to its cleverly crafted story of a songwriter compelled to create despite the perils of the music business and anonymity: "I want my 50 percent/Before it's all spent." "Get Out While You Can," a swampy rocker that conjures muggy Detroit summers, hits harder than any Outrageous Cherry songs in recent memory, providing a welcome reminder of just how diverse their sound can be. This is especially true of "Outsider," the lone epic among the rest of Universal Malcontents' classically proportioned two- and three-minute pop songs. Combining Mott the Hoople's good-natured ambling with the improvisations of bands like Amon Düül, the song feels like the sunny, jammy culmination of the excursions the band embarked on with Supernatural Equinox and The Book of Spectral Projections. At just ten songs long, Universal Malcontents' conciseness adds to its throwback feel, but its eclecticism and focus make it another solidly enjoyable album from a band that seems to have nothing but solidly enjoyable albums in its catalog.


Formed: 1992 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Named after a brilliant red hair dye, Detroit's Outrageous Cherry mixes garage rock, psychedelic and indie pop into a timeless yet distinctive sound. The band started as a recording project in 1992 but blossomed into a full-fledged group when singer/guitarist/producer Matthew Smith (who also performs in the country tinged Volebeats) began performing live backed by a full band in 1993. Outrageous Cherry's wistful noise-pop debuted with a limited-edition 7" of "Pale, Frail Lovely One" on the local...
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