‘All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace’ by Universal Thee (Album)

18 February, 2016 in Music Reviews

Universal Thee

Universal Thee: with husband and wife James and Lisa Russell’s shared vocals a constant source of joy

By embracing their influences, this Edinburgh band have delivered an assured, energetic and immediate second album of charged power pop

Universal Thee 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace' album coverThe sound, influence and appeal of certain bands is so well established that it’s impossible for anyone following in their shoes to ignore. Pixies, Teenage Fanclub and Pavement all fall into this category and cast a long and beautiful shadow over both their contemporaries and subsequent generations. The question facing many groups is how to remain loyal to their heroes’ sound, without getting buried under the considerable weight of their music.

The ramped-up second album from Edinburgh’s Universal Thee answers this by diving headfirst into a world of jangled distortion. It’s as if, by embracing these comparisons, they will be set free from them. Dynamics shift from crunchy grunge to power pop, but there is a constant energy binding everything together, with husband and wife James and Lisa Russell’s shared vocals a constant source of joy. Standout songs, such as Keep Falling, Xang and Sail Away, abound and – with only ten tracks – the whole thing races along.

Closing number, Light On even finds room for an extended jam: a momentary loosening of the grip that hints at a playfulness lurking beneath the group’s tight musicianship. This may be a sound you’ve heard before, but when done this well it’s definitely worth revisiting.

Verdict: Catchy guitar music for fans of the classics

Duncan Haskell