Ultimate Painting emerged fully formed in the summer of 2014, brightening up the airwaves with their eponymous debut single ‘Ultimate Painting’. Spending the summer playing garden shows, house parties and putting on their own events, James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes) quickly followed the initial flurry of activity with their debut LP, released in October on Chicago’s Trouble In Mind Records (Mikal Cronin, Jacco Gardner, Dick Diver). Acclaimed by critics and peers, the LP felt like a breath of fresh air, with one eye on the orange haze of the late sixties and another looking optimistically to a sparse post-digital space. Refined and economic, dreamy and quietly euphoric; ten songs by two songwriters at the top of their game.
After touring North America and Europe with contemporaries such as Parquet Courts, Twerps and White Fence, Jack and James quickly retreated to James’ all analogue home studio just off Green Lanes in North London to record the follow-up, joined this time by Mazes drummer Neil Robinson.
Recorded by James on one-inch tape, ‘Green Lanes’ perfects the template they created with the first LP. Five songs from each songwriter and with various shades of collaboration in between: “The song always comes from a melody, some vague structure and then maybe a verse and chorus worth of lyrics… but everything we do, be it a guitar part or harmony, is always filtered through the other person.”
“I think we both have a very specific sound in mind that neither of us have ever tried to explain to each other and I think on this record we’ve figured out what songs we needed to write to compliment the sound we were getting at with the first LP. I guess, inadvertently, the lyrics and themes of the record have a cohesiveness that we hadn’t really thought about with the first one. Although I’m (Jack) generally more optimistic, we both have this very similar English melancholic outlook.” Themes of isolation and nihilism hide beneath the breeziness and cloud of some beautiful classic melodies.
Make no mistake, this is a guitar record and it’s refreshing to hear two guitars so confused as to which one is leading, each leaving space and taking turns to rise to the surface and provide the hook. It feels like every little thing has been pored over and at the same time it seems completely on the fly, never contrived. Jack’s lead guitar on ‘Kodiak’, a Grateful Dead-ish hook that circles around James’ languid groove is the perfect example. The second track ‘Sweet Chris’ is as good as it gets… a perfectly crafted James song that could have been written at any point in the last 50 years. ‘Break The Chain’, too… a slice of very English pop music that got perfected at some point between Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish. Jack’s ‘(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues’ skips and bobs through their native East London, the protagonist a victim of David Cameron’s government and their draconian sanctions and benefit cuts. ‘Into The Ocean’ and its clouded nostalgia lyrically echoes the sonics of the record. It pines for simpler times, rose tinted and dusky.