As Ultimate Painting, UK duo Jack Cooper and James Hoare dive into influences and pursue whims they aren’t able to in their other bands. Cooper’s work in Mazes draws upon ’90s American indie rock, referencing acts like Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, and Yo La Tengo in the their latest album, Wooden Aquarium. On the other hand, Hoare and his partner Roxanne Clifford explore wistful C86-jangle as Veronica Falls, while his other project The Proper Ornaments examine the breezy textures of Paisley Underground. Together, Cooper and Hoare, who met while on tour with their respective bands, have decided to look back to the ’60s with their reverent, self-titled debut.
For most of its 10 tracks, Ultimate Painting occupies a stoned, jangly mid-tempo territory — lackadaisical chord progressions and hazy atmospheres filled with hushed, sometimes monotonous vocals. Songs like the gripping “Ten Street” take on the bluesy grime of Lou Reed’s solo career, while “Can’t You See” recalls indie rock bands like Pinback with its interlocking composition and slow-building structures. Sometimes, offerings like “Riverside”, which features a simple, woozy arpeggio and wobbling synths, never seem to go further than their rudimentary parts. While the songs feel ramshackle but not lazy, disaffected but not apathetic, these loving tributes rarely surpass pastiche. When a voice talks about visiting John Lennon’s house in Central Park at the end of “Jane”, it’s laid on a little thick.
Ultimate Painting is professionally executed, but at times underwhelming. Still, Cooper and Hoare have undeniable chemistry, and the album seems to be the start of a promising partnership.