Review: Ugly Kid Joe – ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’

As unlikely as it sounds, ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’ is in fact only the fifth studio album to be released in thirty-three years by Californian stalwarts Ugly Kid Joe. And the first since 2015. You might think that navigating the music scene in the 21st century is a balancing act for a band like UKJ; the desire to produce new music would be quite hard to resist, but at the same time it must be clear to the band that there will be fans who only want to hear the legacy hits – a can’t win situation, but, 2015’s ‘Uglier Than They Used ta Be’ was crowdfunded which does proof that UKJ still has a strong fanbase out there to counterbalance the casual fans who only want the hits. So, seven years after the acclaimed ‘Uglier Than They Used ta Be’, mainstays Whitfield Crane, Klaus Eichstadt, Cordell Crockett, and Dave Fortman (4/5ths of the line-up that appeared on 1992’s breakout album ‘America’s Least Wanted’), along with drummer Zac Morris, are back with a new album and one that continues the tradition of pun-filled album titles: ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’.

If your only interaction with Ugly Kid Joe over the last four years or so (fuck Covid) was when they filled the special guests slot earlier this year on Thunder’s arena tour (get well soon Danny), then you might have noticed that not only are the band still in great shape, but they still are masters at entertaining a crowd. And the E-word continues on ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’, for this is an album destined to put a smile on your face, and not in the surfer-dude way that the band did back in the 90s, whisper it, but this is quite a mature album.

Like the vast majority of material that Ugly Kid Joe have produced over the decades, ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’ is plenty varied; with the scary news that U2 are planning an AC/DC-style album (please God, no, just no), ‘That Ain’t Livin” shows B*** and company how it is done (easy to imagine Angus rocking back and forth on the spot to this one), ‘Dead Friends Play’ is a straightforward, old-school, guitar-driven slab of rock ‘n’ roll so you could say that there is also a ‘DC influence on display, but you could also say that there is a Doors influence; ‘Not Like The Other’ is a glam-fuelled belter that causes spontaneous bouts of handclapping; ‘Everything’s Changing’ is a chilled-as-fuck acoustic moment of the highest quality, it’s not a ballad per se, but is damn blissful; ‘Kill The Pain’ begins in much the same way but instead of staying in chilled-acoustic mode it alternates the acoustic segments with powerful bursts of loud guitar, Alice In Chains-style backing vocal harmonies, and even more loud guitar; ‘Drinkin’ and Drivin’’ is a gentle, countrified few minutes (complete with twangs and banjo-picking) that feature some dark lyrics underneath the alright-alright-alright vibe; and ‘Failure’ packs an almighty Billy Duffy-like guitar sound, and some badass drums, into a brutally honest performance from Crane: “Women may come and women may go/ But they never seem to stick around/ Nothing I say and nothing I do/ Ever seems to work I’ve found… ‘Cause I’m a failure/ You know I never get it right/ Yes I’m a failure/ I’m gonna fail you tonight…”.

Ugly Kid Joe Thunder

With ‘Rad Wings Of Destiny’ a few things become abundantly clear; Whitfield Crane sounds even better today than he did back in the 90s; Ugly Kid Joe proves yet again that it’s all about the quality and not about the quantity; and finally, they have given themselves a bit of a headache when it comes to compiling a setlist for the current UK co-headling tour with Massive Wagons, as there are at least four, maybe five new tracks on here that deserve a place amongst the legacy hits. Find out for yourself on one of those dates, listed below.

‘Rad Wings of Destiny’ is available now, more information here

Review – Dave

Live image – Callum Scott

Live dates:

Sun 6th Nov – LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

Tue 8th Nov – GLASGOW Garage

Wed 9th Nov – NEWCASTLE Riverside

Thu 10th Nov – SHEFFIELD O2 Academy

Fri 11th Nov – WOLVERHAMPTON KK’s Steel Mill

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