UJ3RK5 (pronounced "U-Jerk") was Vancouver's pre-eminent art-rock group whose members were well-known in the art community — many of whom would go on to bigger and better things in their respective fields. The only hard artifacts attesting to the existence of this all-star art-punk ensemble are an eponymous 12-inch EP and two tracks on the Vancouver Complication album.
The band flourished from 1979-‘80, but the roots of the band went back to when founders Frank Ramirez and Rodney Graham began playing together in 1975, in places like the Soft Rock Café as “U2” or “Gentlemen2.” The duo eventually expanded their musical partnership, and the first version of UJ3RK5 surfaced in the summer of 1977. They made their first recordings, which were aired that fall on Vancouver Co-op Radio (CFRO). Their first live appearances, however, weren’t until early 1979. Stephen Macklam described their music in SnotRag no.14: “Punk-jazz, art-rock, industrial music, closet avant-garde…. Imagine Pere Ubu on nitrous oxide.”
UJ3RK5 played hall gigs and art galleries, sharing bills with everyone from DOA to Gang Of Four. After PolyGram signed the band and reissued the Quintessence EP, UJ3RK5 split up over disagreements about the band’s future. Many members had secure careers outside the band, and weren’t willing to take things to the next level, whatever that meant.
Les sez: Singer Frank Ramirez co-opted that David Byrne yip-yap chihuahua vocal style, which placed the band in a different niche than punk. They were art-rock leading into the dreaded new wave. Jeff Wall later became a world-famous photographer, adding to his street credibility by shooting the terrific portrait of Iggy Pop on the cover of Pop’s Avenue B.