That’s not a word you’ll hear very often (I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard it before), especially not in traditional progressive circles, where tradition dictates that everything related to punk music is bad, bad, bad. If you can move past that unfortunate mindset, however, you will discover some of the most brilliant music ever created. Bands such as the Cardiacs, This Heat, Hella, Massacre (with Fred Frith), and, of course, Už Jsme Doma all fit this bill, and they are all among my favorite bands.
Pronk in general is notable for pulling from a multitude of genres to create a unique mixture (the Cardiacs in particular are known for sounding simultaneously like everybody and nobody). In Už Jsme Doma’s case, we can hear technical music, jazz, and even Zeuhl all come together to create fantastic album, Uši . While this is my only experience so far with Už Jsme Doma, I have heard it’s their best album, and, based on my experiences with it, I’d be surprised if it’s not. It is engaging from start to finish, balancing perfectly the technical aspects with a good dose of humor and one of (if not) rock’s best brass sections.
On Uši (pronounced “Ooshee,” translated to mean “The Ears”), we hear technical punk (“Bosi”), metal riffs (“Tenký led”), an ode to cowboys (“Kovbojská”), Zeuhl chants (“Pot”), and a prog mini-epic (“Uši”), not to mention much more. This album can switch between an all-out punk assault and a section that borders on free jazz in no time at all. One moment, the guitar is spitting out power chords, the next, the brass section is going stark-raving mad. And, the amazing thing is, it sounds 100% natural. The brass workout that follows the riff of “Tenký Led” feels like it belongs. The chants of “Pot” seem perfectly in tune with the technical assault that preceded it. The tempo also can vary radically within a song, most drastically seen in “Usi,” but also notably present in “Kovbojská” and “Pot.”
As if that weren’t enough, this album is also strong in that it has a grand total of zero weak songs. Every piece of music on this album is a winner through and through. Though the album may seem short by today’s standards (it clocks in at just over forty minutes), I, for one, am grateful and impressed at the band’s restraint. I would much prefer a short album with no filler (which is exactly what Uši is) to a long album with unnecessary tracks/passages.
And still, there is more to praise about this album. You may see this classified as avant-garde, but that description is way off the mark. It is laden with melodic hooks. I guarantee that you will have no trouble getting into this album, whether or not you like avant-garde, since this album really has nothing in common with the genre. Even if you don’t like this style of music, Už Jsme Doma do enough to make it worthwhile for you. Whereas most technical music is cold and soulless, Už Jsme Doma do all they can to make this album as warm as possible, and they succeed. You will be able to distinguish that this is technical music, but it may take some convincing, since this is one of the most uplifting albums ever written. The vocals are warm and inviting, especially in the vocal harmonies, which peak on the title track, but even solo they manage to reach out and draw you in. And, need I mention it again, there is a plethora of melodic hooks on this album. Yes, get that. This album is nothing if not catchy. These are tunes you can hum along to, perhaps not after one listen, but after only two or three you will find your foot tapping and your mouth moving, and there’s really nothing you can do about.
After all I’ve said, it should be obvious what my rating will be, but just in case, I give this album a resounding A (masterpiece). I can’t quite stick in that elite category A+, but it is damn close. I don’t care what style of music you like, you MUST get your hands on this album. It will appeal to fans of avant-garde for its quirkiness and humor, fans of pop for its melodic hooks, fans of prog for its inventiveness, and fans of music for the fact that this is, if nothing else, some of the best music ever created. What are you still reading this review for? Go get it!