Personnel: Pete Lesperance, Harry Hess (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Barry Donaghy (vocals); Creighton Doane (drums).
Sonically, Rubber's sophomore record, Ultra Feel, sounds like a successful sequel to the first album. Nothing differs much from the self-titled debut, and while the songwriting is potentially a bit stronger this time, it's an album very much in the same vein as the first. However it will probably always be remembered as the album that destroyed Rubber. After Rubber's self-titled debut of radio-ready guitar pop came out, all the band bios and press indicated that they were a new band. However, Rubber was none other than Harem Scarem, a Canadian melodic rock band who had renamed themselves and refashioned their image as a bid for mainstream success. While it worked for the first album, generating a Canadian Top 20 single in "Sunshine," nothing off this album rocketed up the charts immediately after its March 2001 release. Because of that, the band quickly changed their name back to Harem Scarem, effectively abandoning the Rubber project. That strange history does overshadow (or potentially enhance) the music, as listeners may feel that Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance were merely running them through a genre exercise. It's disappointing, actually, as the music on here is really quite good: anthemic songs like "Happiness" and "Forgive" are primed for radio play, while the Brian Wilson-like vocal arrangements on "Running Away" are surprisingly sophisticated. Even when they don't write their own material, they pick the right stuff to record, as evidenced from the cover of the Squeeze classic, "Another Nail for My Heart," that opens this album. It's true that Harem Scarem fans may (understandably) denounce this period as a farce, but for fans of hooky power pop with a fair amount of production sheen, the Rubber project -- especially Ultra Feel -- was the real thing. ~ Jason Damas