If Death Cow is the Nirvana of the Lincoln/Omaha scene, then Uh Oh is definitely Weezer.
For the last five years, Uh Oh has been through two lineup changes, but the current members have been brewing in the minds of many notable members of the local music community. It seems the band is driven by pure ambition, and the payoff has been a drastic improvement in its recordings and performances.
The band’s refinement culminates in their most recent album, “Stay Close,” released last Friday, which places Uh Oh at the top of its game. The tracks on this album have been reworked and near-perfected through the band’s relentless live performances at houses, bars and various DIY spots around Lincoln and Omaha. The live punk attitude gets funneled through frontman Joe Champion’s determined songwriting to create ten tracks, all of which have more than enough catchy riffs to be singles.
A major turning point for the band was the official addition of former The Way Out frontwoman and Death Cow bassist, Mari Crisler, in early 2018. Her precise, stone-clad harmonies and melodic guitar playing lay down a solid groundwork for Champion to fling his angry-Rivers-Cuomo wailing throughout the sonic landscape as an emotive cherry on top.
But it isn’t just Champion laying down the soul. The careful precision with which the band chose the instrumental harmonies on “Stay Close” shows its reverence for the songwriting process. Tracks like “If You See Me” immediately bring the listener’s attention to an instantly memorable melody. While the lead guitar anchors the listener to the groove, Erik Trent’s long-toned bass runs around and tickles various unexpected notes, leading to moments of giddiness at one point and turmoil at another.
Uh Oh knows when and where to flip the nitrous switch on “Stay Close.” The second track on the album, “Desperate,” starts off as a rip-roaring homage to the Pixies, but it’s impossible to prepare for the intensity of the breakdown around the halfway point. In classic Dave Brubeck fashion, Uh Oh manages to turn unusual time signatures — in this case it’s 5/4 time — into the climax of the entire album. Champion and Crisler take turns landing guitar stabs on odd beats, and each stab is followed by a delightful little string of guitar notes, providing the yin and the yang erupting from the fuzz guitar.
While Uh Oh could really launch off, they also satisfy with the more mellow cuts from the record. Country music is inescapable in Nebraska, and Uh Oh really delivers with the track “Hang On.” This track is undeniably a country song, but it’s still undeniably Uh Oh. Their ability to branch out into different genres while maintaining a unique sound is a trait of many extremely successful bands and artists, especially in the punk sector (Hüsker Dü, Iggy Pop).
“Stay Close” is abounding with love and innocence, and the lyrics lie on the same emotional plane. “I don’t mess with cigarettes, but of course I’ll come outside/My clothes might billow smoke tomorrow, but it’s worth it just to talk a bit tonight,” Champion quips at the end of “Closer to Midnight.” This track shows Uh Oh is on a mission to find the positive aspects of life. Smoking might kill you, but it would be a terrible loss to miss out on the conversations that may spark a revelation, or maybe just make you laugh. With “Stay Close,” Uh Oh will be fresh-lunged and laughing all the way to the top.