Seismic-Sound Album Reviews: Out On The Streets and Unsane.
Out On The Streets~ (Self Released)
The last time I saw Out On The Streets they were playing with my band, and the always-amazing Keaton Collective rounding out our mish-mash rock and roll bill, in an extremely sleazy bar in Bellingham that shall remain nameless. The night was sweaty, soaked with booze, and overall hard to remember. Therefore, it was no surprise that I completely forgot the name of the band, their sound, and all of their songs by the time I listened to their most recent EP, We Buy Gold.
I’m glad to say that it totally made my morning. Their bouncy, infectious blend of brit-pop and 80’s anthem rock is just the type of thing to get your day going. Despite the obvious influence of bands like The Clash and The Smiths, they take their songs in some fairly heavy directions, adding dirt to their music that complements their gleefully spastic moments.
Besides making you want to get up and jump around, there is a certain amount of retro spice to this record that keeps it from ever sounding too commercial or mainstream. While the band clearly embraces the concept of the rock anthem, they’ve paid attention to all the other details that make a song decent and palatable. “Effigies” is definitely the cut on this EP, sucking you in with a sweet bass hook and really picks up the pace once Kelly McShane (vocals) drops in and spits his lovable British-English all over your ears.
The band will undoubtedly be playing a myriad of shows around the Northwest this year, and I highly recommend you get your dapper butts out to support these guys. They just received their first rotation on 107.7 The End’s Local Show, and I can’t imagine any reason they won’t be some sort of mainstay on KEXP in the coming months.
Unsane~ Wreck (Alternative Tenatacles)
An overturned, rat-infested dumpster gathers flies in a urine-soaked alley. A faulty wiring strobe light illuminates a spatter of blood on the tiled wall of the Subway station. A severed limb on smoking blacktop, the burning automobile, a helpless scream from a steel inferno. A clown with smudged makeup shooting junk in a construction site porta-potty. A harmonica solo. Wait, what?! Oh, and there’s a time machine over there, too. Pretty sure it’s a time machine.
You might think you’ve stumbled on all of the above with one spin of Wreck, the new Unsane record. NYC’s finest purveyors of hardcore dirge, grime, and urban violence return with their first since 2007’s excellent Visqueen. It’s easy to file this one in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category – it’s essentially a very slender variation on the type of solid, scuzzy records Unsane has been putting out since 1991. Here, Chris Spencer’s distorto-shriek and Telecaster caterwaul certainly have a vehicular feel – the lurching rhythms reminiscent of a runaway blues train. Sure, there are a few new wrinkles, the brooding poetic license of “Decay” and the stoner Skynyrd slack of “Stuck.” But for the most part, it’s status quo, big bashers like “No Chance” (featuring, yes, the mandatory harmonica squall) offer little for optimists – equal parts punk, noise and hardcore, it’s music for ex-cons, all blue collar tendon and gristle.
If you’re a fan from way back, Wreck will provide you with a taste of yesteryear. Believe it or not, there was a time when Unsane was a scary band – from album covers and lyrics to live shows that left a legacy of stitches and scars the world over – this was an outfit notorious for not only playing but also living the part. For the uninitiated who might be reading about these semi-legends for the first time – you could do worse than to start with Wreck and work your way back. It’s far from their best record – most would argue it’s 1995’s Scattered, Smothered and Covered– but there’s still plenty of fight left in this dog.