Every day sees one more example of the creeping nincompoopism constant in American life. Today’s selection is UFO’s Covenant. The “bonus” disc included with it is a live recording, the track listing of which is so utterly fubar it bears not even the slightest resemblance to what the actual order of music delivers. Is it too much to ask that even the simplest of tasks, the proper listing of a record’s contents, be conducted properly by those charged with manufacturing it?
If I were UFO, I’d be apprehensive over the lack of diligence, particularly when this record’s the best thing they’ve done since, eh, who can remember? (Hold on there, now I do. Wrote the best metal riff to VD, “Natural Thing,” for ’76’s No Heavy Petting, complete with a crypto-disgusting “art” cover featuring plastic hoses connecting the carotid arteries of band members, a woman with a rather short haircut, and a rhesus monkey. The fist-shake “Too Hot to Handle” on Light’s Out in ’77 was nothing to sneeze at, either.)
Covenant is a disc UFO should be proud of, not something to which must be attached a lame dog-ate-my-album-liner excuse. Y’see, in the recent past, UFO have existed as two groups not quite equaling one mediocre one: (1) Guitarist Michael Schenker’s band, which when not making live “best of UFO” records sans UFO descends into savant virtuosity for guitar-magazine-reading finger-fitness freaks, and (2) singer Phil Mogg and bass player Pete Way collaborations, equivalents to “Looking for Mr. Schenker.” (There was also one misfired “comeback” record around 1995 that twisted in Japanese Hell. An underground live CD from the time was well-dubbed Mismanaged.)
So now UFO have come to terms with being three grim-looking, middle-aged men, plus one who looks like he’s about to retch up a gout of pancreatic sick. This means a great deal—I find it reassuring that some of my mid-’70s metal icons have attained the maturity and ability to age as fast as I can. “In the Middle of Madness” delivers a solid “Louie Louie”-like stroll about the appreciation of a pretty girl. Phil Mogg sings with such brio and rhythm, even the stuff that looks dumb on paper (“washers, dryers, dealers in souls . . .”) works; on “Miss the Lights,” he demands you get down “on your pinky knees and start to pray” if you’re vain about celebrity. Throughout, Schenker brings on the Saracens with countermelodies sampled from among the sand dunes. Even the luckless “bonus” disc perseveres: entertainingly crunching rocknoise, wildly empowering to a crowd of stewbums.