The ultimate compliment

Open Up and Say Awesome (Initial)
Ultimate Fakebook

By Kevin Gibson

The latest release to come out of Louisville's Initial Records is a bit different from the label's standard punk and alt-hardcore artists. Ultimate Fakebook mixes its squalling guitar attack with sweet melodies and some damn impressive harmony vocals. Is this a rock band? Yes, and in the truest sense. We're talking short compositions that ride waves of energy bands like the Goo Goo Dolls have been faking for years.

I picked up this trio's first major release, 2000's This Will Be Laughing Week, after hearing the single, "Tell Me What You Want," one whole time. So, when preparing to listen to the follow-up, I knew what I wanted. I'm pleased to say Ultimate Fakebook delivered in grand style. While the leadoff cut to Open Up falls a little flat on these ears, "The Scheme to Listen to No More" revs up the electricity and puts Bill McShane's emotive vocals right where they should be - at the forefront of his massive guitar attack. "Inside Me, Inside You" and "Forever, Forever" back it up with some beautifully arranged pop hooks, leaving no doubt that Ultimate Fakebook's first was no fluke.

Just as interesting as McShane's vocals is his writing voice. While "Forever" is a sentimental "I love you" pop tune, McShane finds a way to deliver it from an unexpected angle. Ditto "Valentines." You see a song title like that, and you automatically expect cheese. Consider this lyric, however: "All of the times I wait/All the lines I write and save/up for the day when I'll walk up to you/and win you over/another wild charade/another lie I'll hide so deep/under a pillow of excuses that won't let me sleep."

These guys might get marketed as a skate punk band, but I would compare Ultimate Fakebook more closely to the late, great Jim Ellison and his heady power-pop band Material Issue. From writing style to the warbly-yet-endearing voice, McShane could almost be channeling Ellison through his music. Material Issue never found commercial success, and Ellison unfortunately committed suicide just when the band appeared ready to break out. I hope McShane and his crew are still going at it for many years - I'll be more than happy to continue buying the music as long as Ultimate Fakebook continues making it as honestly and enthusiastically as they did on this album.