31
Oct 07

Blog ’92: U-U-U-UTAH SAINTS

FT23 comments • 3,974 views

6. Utah Saints – Something Goodsomething-good.jpg

Another mainstream chart hit for Rave ’92, one which has cemented itself into the consciousness of the Great British listening public thanks to that stuttering name-check announcement.

The prim & proper Royal Doulton strings are joined by blasts of distorted kick drum and crowd noise, and the cry of “Utah Saints! Utah Saints! Utah Saints! U-U-U-Utah Saints!” The overall result is an enormous monolith of sound crammed into a few short bars, before suddenly dropping to a tinny computer game end-of-level twiddle riff. But there’s no pause for breath: the gut-rumbling bass and pounding drums bash you round the head straight away and launch off into the stratosphere.

It’s an incredibly busy record, but each sound is clearly distinguishable: the ticka-ticka-ticka of the underlying tech beat propelling the song forward, weaving in and out of syncopated piano chords and wiggling synths; the meaty electric guitar compressed to within an inch of its life; the gothic organ waterfall trickling between build-up and chorus. All the parts have a common theme of fast-paced, stoccato notes – short arpeggios, punchy beats, even the phrase “U-tah-Saints!” is spat out like gun-fire. Not only the notes are short – each section is only given a few bars to prove its worth before tipping into the next. And before you know it, the track is winding down to the outro: the energy spent, a chance for the more extravagant dancefloor inhabitants to get their breath back before the next song.

Utah Saints were the sample kings: Kate Bush’s vocal is completely shorn from the ‘Cloudbusting’ backing and twisted to fit their pattern. ‘Something Good’ could almost manage as an instrumental: Bush’s euphoric optimism is the icing on the cake – a subtle garnish rather than a foundation for an entire song (very difficult to achieve when the sample is a famous vocal). It’s interesting to contrast ‘Something Good’ with its neighbour, Messiah’s re-recorded hyperdrive version of ‘I Feel Love’, which still relies on the original for its name and underlying tune without sampling it directly.

‘Something Good’ is perfectly constructed piece of uplifting ‘stadium house’, and deserves to be one of the defining records of the rave era. Such was its impact on me as a force to be reckoned with, I had no idea that the song had sampled ANYONE famous (let alone Ms Bush) until I bought the Saints’ debut album eight years later and looked at the liner notes. Kate who?

Watch the video to ‘Something Good’ on Youtube

Comments

  1. 1
    katstevens on 31 Oct 2007 #

    Utah Saints’ own brand of ‘rockism’ was also written on the liner notes:

    “Utah Saints use samples to FREE us from the confines of popular instruments. THE sample may be a vocal phrase, 100 guitars, or everyday MACHINES and animals. these are all just instruments to us. No tape was used in the making of this album. TAKE CONTROL of the machine NOW!”

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Oct 2007 #

    But the kids preferred Rage Against The Machine.

  3. 3
    Mark M on 31 Oct 2007 #

    I believe that legend had it that this was conceived above the halal butcher shop at the end of Brudenell Road, LS6. (Utah Saints are not to be confused with the rather less famous Pale Saints, of course, who definitely bought their veg at the shockingly bad greengrocer on Brudenell Road).

  4. 4
    Steve on 31 Oct 2007 #

    first time i heard this was seeing them perform it on Dance Energy, man i loved that show – and this track was definitely an instant hit with me, much more than ‘What Can U Do For Me’ which I wasn’t as mad on.

    Their attitude to samples was probably more brazen and blatant than anyone else having big rave-associated hits at the time bar Shut Up And Dance, because like SUAD the sample as hook was SO ramped up and both the nucleus and the highlight (recontextualised) of the track. The Prodigy too of course but Howlett usually had a lot of other things going on in additional e.g. two or three additional big samples, his own melodic hooks plus more complicated beats. I think I’m disagreeing with Kat here re ‘subtle garnish/foundation’ but maybe I’m under-estimating the piano and whatnot. But ‘Something Good’ would only be something half as good without the presence of KB imo (that’s still pretty good tho).

  5. 5
    katstevens on 31 Oct 2007 #

    What I was trying to get at is that while vocal sample is definitely important & is a brilliant addition, it’s by no means the basis of the song (hello Kanye West etc). For all I know it might have started off that way but it has evolved into a higher form!

  6. 6
    katstevens on 31 Oct 2007 #

    Their other big sample singles aren’t quite so clever, eg ‘Believe In Me’ is quite clearly all about Phil Talking throughout.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 31 Oct 2007 #

    Perhaps the Utah Saints’ greatest achievement was in reconstructing the Eurythmics’ ‘There Must be an Angel’ to actually sound like the explosion of bliss that that misbegotten song must have been intended to evoke.

  8. 8
    Steve on 31 Oct 2007 #

    I figure my perception is affected by having recognised the sample and liking ‘Cloudbusting’ beforehand. But I agree ‘Believe In Me’ isn’t quite as good (altho as well as the ‘Love Action’ sample I like that it lifts the ‘woo hoo’s from ‘You Gave Me Love’ by Crown Heights Affair just as much) although I wouldn’t say ‘Something Good’ is necessarily cleverer as they’re both based on the same formula – same goes for the first single really. I liked ‘I Want You’ at the time too (lol used on Fisherman’s Friend advert) but don’t recognise any samples from that if there are any.

  9. 9
    katstevens on 31 Oct 2007 #

    Jez recorded his own vocals for ‘I Want You’ – apparently they sampled some song called “War Ensemble”. Cool!

  10. 10
    henry s on 31 Oct 2007 #

    the New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City in the late-70’s, and became the Utah Jazz…if the New Orleans Saints followed suit, they would become the…Utah Saints…

  11. 11
    . on 1 Nov 2007 #

    When I was a nipper, I actually thought they were from Utah.

  12. 12
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2007 #

    As I recall they did a remix of “Crazy Horses” around 1995.

  13. 13
    Tom on 1 Nov 2007 #

    I know Norman Cook did a Crazy Horses remix at some point.

    The great Utah Saints missed opportunity is their “New Gold Dream” version – I am sure that there is an amazing rave record lurking in NGD (tho NGD in itself is pretty phenomenal) – but it surely doesn’t have Jez Saint singing it.

  14. 14
    katstevens on 1 Nov 2007 #

    My favourite Utah Saints track is actually ‘Kinetic Synthetic’, a high-octane instrumental with no obvious samples in it at all. It’s less pop than ‘Something Good’ in that there’s fewer hooks, but the hooks it does have are brilliantly brain-melting.

  15. 15
    Steve on 1 Nov 2007 #

    ‘I am sure that there is an amazing rave record lurking in NGD (tho NGD in itself is pretty phenomenal)’

    isn’t this Usura’s ‘Open Your Mind’?

    i’m intrigued by ‘Kinetic Synthetic’. i also quite like ‘Ohio’ for the Jocelyn Brown sample altho by then they were stretching the formula to breaking point really. 5 years after that they sounded a lot more Underworldy with the ‘Love Song’ single (and there’s yer actual Simple Minds connection).

  16. 16
    Steve on 1 Nov 2007 #

    apart from their NGD version i mean! didn’t Moby cover or remix ‘New Gold Dream’ also?

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2007 #

    Norman Cook did a remix of “One Bad Apple” in his Beats International days which incorporated portions of “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool.” Donny loved it but the record company nixed it.

  18. 18
    Tom on 1 Nov 2007 #

    Ah, that was what I was thinking of – yes!

  19. 19
    jason on 6 Nov 2007 #

    Utah Saints are PLAYING on the 7th of December in Cardiff Q BAr!!! wooop woooop!!! see you there:

    http://www.tantrumpartyheads.com

  20. 20
    Ashley Pomeroy on 14 Oct 2008 #

    In terms of the blatant use of samples, as per comment #4 above, I reckon that Altern-8 were even more extreme. A couple of their tracks are so stuffed with samples of the original song that it’s hard to tell whether they are supposed to be cover versions or remixes or something else (“Infiltrate 202” and “Brutal-8-E” in particular, and in fact I could be very wrong; they might actually have been intended as remixes all along). This might explain why their only LP remains out of print.

    I remember the Utah Saints getting a lot of stick from the rave purists for being popular and a bit dorky. Listened to nowaday the thing that strikes me most about “Something Good” is the drum sound, which is closer to rock than rave. It has the kind of Miami Vice-style booming big drum sound that was popular with popular electronic dance records from the immediate pre-rave era, rather than the dvvvv / smash of TR-909 samples or the hissy chika-chika insect quality of sampled vintage drum loops. The drum sound dates the track a bit, and makes it sound older than 1992.

  21. 21
    SteveM on 14 Oct 2008 #

    The Altern 8 album is readily available on iTunes, 7 Digital etc. if not on first-hand vinyl. Altern 8’s samples weren’t quite as obvious as Utahs tho – they never went as far as sampling big pop names like Lennox and Bush at least.

  22. 22
    speedwell54 on 29 Sep 2012 #

    I was obsessed with “Cloudbusting” when it came out. I remember taping and watching the video over and over again late one night, much to the chagrin of my father in the room above. The repeated string section -the only sound to make it through the floorboards- eventually wore him down.

    The video was great because Kate was in it. Donald Sutherland too. I went to the library (how long ago was this?) to look up Wilhem Reich and his “cloudbuster” machine. He had some issues btw.

    When Utah Saints covered/sampled it with “Something Good” I really loved it too, going against the convention where I should have obviously slagged it off no end.

  23. 23
    Vir2L Boy on 4 Mar 2017 #

    I’m here to remind you that this track is still Fresh in 2017

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