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For your reappraisal: Urusei Yatsura - 'Slain By Urusei Yatsura'

Urusei Yatsura - Slain by Urusei Yatsura
Urusei Yatsura - Slain by Urusei Yatsura Copyright Sire Records
Copyright Sire Records
By David Mouriquand
Published on
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In this weekly series, our journalists share their appreciation for an undervalued album that deserves more love. This week: Urusei Yatsura's 'Slain By Urusei Yatsura'.

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Uru-who now?

Urusei Yatsura.

They were a Scottish indie rock band composed of vocalists and guitarists Graham Kemp and Fergus Lawrie, bassist Elaine Graham, and her brother Ian on drums.

The story goes that they met in the summer of 1993 while attending the University of Glasgow and decided to form a band, named after a Japanese manga strip written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. They gigged in indie-darling venues 13th Note and King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, and their first recordings were released by the Kazoo Club, which was run at one point by future Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos.

The future seemed bright for the quartet, especially when BBC Radio 1 promoted their music, with a John Peel stamp of approval.

Sadly, mainstream recognition was not meant to be and the band threw in the towel in 2001 after only three albums: ‘We Are Urusei Yatsura’ (1996), ‘Slain By Urusei Yatsura’ (1998) and ‘Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura’ (2000).

Sire Records
Urusei Yatsura's second album, 'Slain By Urusei Yatsura' (1998)Sire Records

I was first introduced to them in 1998, for the release of their second album. My then-neighbours, the Lyne brothers, were fans.

I always looked up to both siblings, respectively two and four years older than me – an age gap which was a huge deal for a 12-year-old with little to no cool factor to speak of.

They seemed to know more than I did about… well, pretty much everything, and frequently took me under their wing; taking me out, helping me pick out what to wear for those all-important school discos, teaching me how to inhale with my first cigarette, and introducing me to music that wasn’t played in my household (ie: David Bowie and Nina Simone).

I vividly remember the eldest brother Matt’s room.

He had the ideal teenage boy’s grotto, shelved with countless CDs, cassettes and 18-rated VHS tapes that I wasn’t old enough to watch. It felt like an entrancing haven of indie-punk cred, plastered with wonky overlapping gig posters, images of Kurt Cobain, scantily clad rock chicks flipping the bird at the photographer… and a promotional poster for Urusei Yatsura’s ‘Slain By…’.

There was something about the tiger stripe lettering of the band’s name that struck a chord. I wanted in.

Matt obliged and played the band’s then-latest single, the bouncy ‘Hello Tiger’, which he had recorded off the radio on tape. It ended up being the band’s only hit, as it reached the Top 40 single chart in 1998, and prompted me to buy the album ‘Slain By…’ on CD.

To this day, if I listen to this Proustian madeleine of an LP, I’m immediately transported back to being a spotty twelve-year-old still amazed by the treasures inside Matt’s room, wearing oversized Nirvana tees and worn-out Converse.

Not all that much has changed since, except my skin is moisturized on the daily and smoother than a veal cutlet.

The album’s racket pop encompasses predictable pubescent frustration and the naivety of a simpler time long past. From the thunderstorm riffs of the opening track ‘Glo Starz’ and its playfully snide lyrics ("Hey sucker, I can see your point, yeah I can see your point, yeah I can see your point, but mine's better!"), the Sonic Youth-sounding ‘Superfi’, the very Pavement ‘No No Girl’, to the unashamedly geeky 'Slain By Elf' and the breezy lo-fi ballad ‘King of Lazy’, everything on this record makes you feel like you’re listening to a ramshackle indie demo you picked up at a cheap gig and that you somehow treasure more because not many people have heard of it.

‘Slain By…’ probably won’t change your life. It isn't flawless, nor a misunderstood work of postmodern genius. It’s just the self-aware sound of an underrated band having a blast with their irresistible balancing act of noisy glam-punk-pop hooks and silly lyrics. And sometimes, that’s more than enough.

So, if you’re in the mood to ride for the underdog, then I recommend my cherished teenage-era album by a forgotten band which deserved more than they got and seemed fine with it. Their prophetic understanding of what lay in store can be heard on the track ‘Fake Fur’: “We’ve got something no one needs.”

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Feel free to prove Urusei Yatsura wrong. Sometimes, all you need is a scuzzy 90s pop blast from the past.

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