Unkle Bob

Unkle Bob

BandRockAdult Contemporary

Unkle Bob have an uncanny knack of sounding like they've been hanging around your record collection your whole life. Sugar and Spite is an incredible debut- as memorable as Murmer, as definitive as Definitely, Maybe, I promise you it’s that good.


Way back in 2006 you could have been forgiven for thinking that Unkle Bob were already strolling down the country’s Hit Parade. Believe it or not, but back in those heady daze, Unkle Bob were only beginning to straddle a fence bestriding that precipice we call stardom and the world was merely stealing furtive glimpses at their glittering future. It may seem strange now but, in that crazy year, Unkle Bob were not yet a household name and their tunes - as sensational and perfectly formed as they may be – were yet to be as seasonally significant as they have now become (Summer’s here!), their presence barely acknowledged on the nation’s airwaves. In short, 2006 may be remembered for several events but the barely-perceptible arrival of a gang of twenty-somethings from Glasgow University and environs is probably not one of them. Historians, however, may choose to disagree: in amongst the manufactured pop drivel, the excitable indier-than-thou new Smiths-elects and the R & B soundalikes you too may have had the good fortune to have stumbled upon something quite special. Enter Unkle Bob and Too Many People.

Well, we can dream, but we are not without a sense of bonhomie here at Unkle Bob Towers. Nor are we alone in believing that Unkle Bob have the wherewithal to be one of this decade’s greatest bands. Surely formed by the thought that “they just don’t write them like that anymore do they?” Unkle Bob are a band you will want to listen to again and again - just to make sure they are as good as you think they are. In the past few months you may have heard a lot about Guilty Pleasures and The Feeling and Orson and the return of the song but Unkle Bob are another thing altogether – instantaneous, classic, contemporaneous. Indeed, what were you expecting - a Supertramp revival?

Unkle Bob are Rick Webster (vocals, guitar), Stuart Cartwright (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin), Ron Yeadon (drums, percussion), Graham Local (double bass) and Geoff Widdowson (keyboards). Formed in and around Glasgow University in the last few years, Unkle Bob have an uncanny knack of sounding like they’ve been hanging around in your record collection your whole life. The band’s own list of (guilty) listening pleasures includes Pink Floyd as well as Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, John Lennon, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, Carole King and John Martyn – though Cartwright, the band’s only Scottish-born member, mentions the Stone Roses, and Widdowson (the only band member to have been schooled in a monastery and be taught by monks) cites the Doors, Blur and the Incredible String Band. Several of these artists seem to have had a bearing on how an Unkle Bob song should sound but several others (like REM and Prefab Sprout) would also appear to have had some influence. And what of those songs? Well, Hold It Down is a sublime lament for an absent lover overseas, a kind of (I Ain’t) Missing You/I’m Not In Love created for a world in which it’s best to hide your feelings cos you know she might be ‘letting go’ and The Hit Parade is two impossibly heartbreaking pop songs rolled into one, the first a plaintive plea that she might ‘say that you want me’ whilst the latter confides ‘all I wanna do is get over you.’ We are in protesting-too-much territory again here but nobody can fail to be moved by the joyful nay carelessly ribald killer chorus ‘I wanna get laid/ I wanna get played/ I wanna walk down the Hit Parade.’

Too Many People is inevitably even more of a jaw-dropper than Hit Parade and the band’s choice for a single in June: a cross between Shack and the Pernice Brothers, this song says everything you’ve always wanted to say about love without saying anything at all – cos that’s all there is to say really. By the time it ends you’ll find yourself shouting ‘Yeah, Too Many People’ as if it’s the last time you will ever shout anything of any real significance. And for our purposes and on the current sampler in circulation (produced by former James guitarist Saul Davies), Birds and the Bees recalls a Fables Of The Reconstruction era REM as well as the Magic Numbers and those all-but-forgotten legendary tunesmiths Friends Again. You’ll find it hard to beat ‘And my mother told me ‘son, you’re just like your dad’/Some little piece of Love that they had’ as a sentiment or indeed a couplet. And you too will wonder whether you belong inside ‘a four-minute love song – that nobody can explain’.

Unkle Bob have more of course (and the delights of One By One and Put A Record On and I Need A Car and Vagabond will be revealed in the fullness of time) but for the moment it should be enough that they exist and that you should love them. 2006 may have barely begun but already we have something to look forward to – a debut album by a band who have hit the ground running. When it comes, you should hold it to your heart and smile.

Phill Savidge


Sugar and Spite LP