Ultra Dolphins - Alien Baby (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Ultra Dolphins

Alien Baby (2010)

Exotic Fever

Ultra Dolphins have been releasing decidedly weird records for several years now. Where they could have gone is anyone's guess, but it's still somewhat surprising to hear them tone it down considerably on their sophomore full-length, Alien Baby. What they do now isn't too far off the Dischord scale, playing even a fairly melodic interpretative take on that style, a sort of amalgam of indie rock and post-hardcore–Fugazi around Steady Diet of Nothing (just with a sharper recording, given), with a nice splash of Drive Like Jehu that's seemed to inspire them from the start.

Opener "Have a Leg" is one of the longer tracks here at 4:57, and it grabs the listener's interest with compelling, noodly guitar work and group vocals, with a toned recording that emphasizes everything nicely without glossing anything. "A Home in the Woods" is driven by a foundation including a solemn bass riff and subtly intricate percussion while their vocalist speaks/mutters over it, until things begin to build up just before the halfway point; the guitar tone becomes an ugly, craggy oil leak of sorts until the band take it out deftly.

The weirdest Alien Baby gets (and you think it'd be weirder) is the incomprehensible singing at the beginning of "The Ape I Know", but even then the band quickly transition to a clearer sort of grunted yelp, and their erratic rhythms are just old-hat by this track. Still done well and interestingly, though, and there's more cool shredding in "Strengthening Man". Closer "Handbag" is a predictably noisy eight-minute feast of wandering guitar effects and harrowing, off-kilter tones.

Ultra Dolphins were cool as a weirdo punk band before, but they're just as good now that they've mellowed out a bit.

Alien Baby