To give all due respect, the Urinals have been around for a long time – starting as a punk parody band in 1977. They quickly developed into a real band, had disagreements, changed their name to 100 Flowers, called it quits, then reformed in a slightly different form, and changed their name to Trotsky Icepick. The Urinals were a supporting band the night Black Flag was arrested onstage in LA for disturbing the peace. Somewhere in or after all that, Amphetamine Reptile released a compilation of many of the difficult-as-fuck to find 7”s, titled Negative Capability… Check It Out. That’s a great listen. You get to hear how they began like Wire and where the Minutemen quite possibly got their knack for short but full songs. A bunch of more well-known bands have gone to cover Urinals songs. The Butthole Surfers pop right into mind. What Is Real and What Is Not is their first release of new material since 1984’s Drawing Fire. The Urinals have always been arty, but I remember more bits of shattered glass in the listener’s ear. This CD is nice. Nice. It’s not patently disappointing, like Devo going into the studio and re-recording “Whip It” specifically to make an advertisement for a home duster, but it’s also not patently exciting, like the charge the first time I heard “Ack Ack Ack Ack” or “Sex.” A lot of the songs on this CD are extremely light and fluttering, like David Byrne’s solo work after the Talking Heads, which can be clever and pretty, but I just don’t find myself hankering for it. In other words, they’re covering the ground well covered and sown in late-90’s indie pop instead of jumping into the noisy direction of whence they came. That all said, “I Make Love to Every Woman on the Freeway” is pert, catchy, and as itchy a song you’re bound to hear this year. The Urinals are a band who’ve gone from angst to a more dust-free environment. Take that as you will.
–todd (Warning Label/Happy Squid)