Summer Is A-Comin' Back In

A Long Year (DaDork)

By Tim Roberts

With apologies to the ghost of the anonymous Medieval English poet: Summer is a-comin' in / Loudly plays the Ultratone / Strummeth guitar, from seasons afar / Tiring of winter's moan.

Fortunately, you'll find a better set of words and a great deal of fun, breezy sounds in Ultratone's third release A Long Year, where the band presents us once again with a generous selection of clean, melodic power-pop, where romance and longing are also kneaded in. Once again, the band fills its songs with an ambience - like the warm, nondescript hiss from AM radio - that fills all the spaces between the notes and rhythms.

While the Ultratone trademark sound is in all the songs (especially the opening track "Headed For the Sun"), the band has worked more subtle musical touches in a few others: the flange, back-masked vocal effects in "The Hit that Never Hit," a detour into club rhythms and synthesizers in "The Orbit" (which is asking for a techno remix) and the warbling electronic piano behind "One Fine Day," that has a sound as if it had been written during a course taught at the James Pankow/Robert Lamm Horns 'n' Vocals School of Pop.

The song "Fight For Peace" contains a nice surprise. Looking at the title and hearing the first few instrumental bars (only acoustic guitar, tambourine and sticks clacking together), you might think it is a bed-in peace anthem along the lines of John and Yoko's "Give Peace a Chance." The lyrics, however, are ambiguous. Is the song about a conflict between a couple? Is it a political dialogue? Is it a commentary on the problems of the world? The band seems to be leaving it up to the listener's ears.

A feature story on the band (along with a review of their previous release Pass It Along) appeared in these pages nearly two years ago. In it, their sound was described as "ultra-summery," the kind of music you have on the car radio as you cruise around the city on a warm evening with your windows open. In A Long Year, Ultratone has, once again, packed its songs with that sound.

It is a reminder that summer is coming in.

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