Thursday, 29 December 2016

Unwound


This year's pick for the final post has got to be the one, the only, the great and under-appreciated, Unwound. Though their influence in the world of post-hardcore and alternative rock is immense, they don't get nearly enough recognition as they deserve for doing so. Not to mention they're probably the only band to ever give Fugazi a run for their money as the greatest "post-hardcore" band of all time.

Unwound emerged out of Olympia, Washington in 1991 as a young three-piece band. They were clearly enamored with the flagship bands of American 80's alternative rock, including Sonic Youth, Big Black, The Wipers, Flipper, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, and many others. This is evident in the band's early work, which blends together dissonance and noise with hints of melody and technical prowess. Even early on, the band is an incredibly tight-knit unit that could knock out anything from 2-minute hardcore songs to 5+ minute noise opuses. They developed a distinctive sound involving angular, distorted guitar tones, dark, complex bass lines, and some powerhouse drumming. Along with contemporaries like Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, and The Jesus Lizard, Unwound would grow to become definitive not only of post-hardcore, but of 90's punk and indie rock as a whole.


They released a steady stream of phenomenal LP's on Kill Rock Stars throughout the decade, each one better than the next. At the turn of the century, two major things happened to Unwound. In 2002, they broke up after over a decade as band. This would be sad if they had not released their London Calling in 2001, which was the breath-taking Leaves Turn Inside You. This was the first album the band recorded themselves, which also happened to be in their newly-built studio. Though they were on their final leg as a band, they stretched it out long enough to perfect what ended up being their grande finale. And holy shit, what a finale it is. The band stretches their sound into long-winding epics, bringing in the sound of post-rock. Unwound continuously build tension through repeated rhythms, meticulously crafting sonic layers. They incorporate strings and synths into their material, which divide up the band's usual chaos with some ethereal moments. In addition, this is by far their most melodic output, from the unique, angular guitar riffs to some borderline catchy vocal moments. Leaves Turn Inside You is a one-of-a-kind album, and is a phenomenal demonstration of the band's prowess and innovation on display. It's a big undertaking at first, but with each further listen there are many sounds and layers to delve into. It's sort of like the Pet Sounds of post-hardcore, in terms of production, songwriting, and experimentation.

There aren't many bands I would say have an "essential" full discography, but Unwound are definitely one of them. Each album is a display of an incredible band continuing to progress and push their boundaries to new limits. Though they do have a single, clear "best" album, I cannot stress enough that the rest of their material is absolutely worth the listen. It's difficult to ever narrow it down to another "essential" album of theirs, since each has such distinct and awe-inspiring qualities. To cut it short, just download e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. You won't regret it. Enjoy, Happy New Year, and I'll see you guys in 2017.

1. Dragnalus
2. Lucky Acid
3. Nervous Energy
4. Valentine Card/Kantina/Were, Are And Was Or Is
5. Honourosis
6. Pure Pain Sugar
7. Gravity Slips
8. Star Spangled Hell
9. Ratbite
10. Feeling$ Real

1. Entirely Different Matters
2. What Was Wound
3. Envelope
4. Hexenzsene
5. Abstraktions
6. All Souls Day
7. Usual Dosage
8. Arboretum
9. Fiction Friction

1. New Energy
2. Demolished
3. Natural Disasters
4. Re-Enact The Crime
5. Equally Stupid
6. Pardon My French
7. Descension
8. Accidents On Purpose
9. Petals Like Bricks
10. Vern's Answer To The Masses
11. Here Come The Dogs
12. Disappoint
13. Swan
14. Full Explanation Of Answer
15. Excuse Me...
16. ...But Pardon...
17. ...My French

1. Antifreeze
2. Rising Blood
3. Understand & Forget
4. Fingertips
5. You Bite My Tongue
6. Stuck In The Middle Of Nowhere Again
7. Warmth
8. Prospect
9. Kid Is Gone
10. Kandy Korn Rituals/Against

Note: Recorded in 1992, meant to be their debut but wasn't released until 1995

1. Message Received
2. Corpse Pose
3. Unauthorized Autobiography
4. Lowest Common Denominator
5. Sensible
6. Lady Elect
7. Fingernails On A Chalkboard
8. Murder Movies
9. Next Exit
10. Devoid
11. Go To Dallas And Take A Left
12. For Your Entertainment

1. Data
2. Laugh Track
3. Meet The Plastics
4. The World Is Flat
5. Sonata For Loudspeakers
6. Mile Me Deaf
7. NO TECH!
8. Untitled 3 (Side Effects Of Being Tired)
9. Lifetime Achievement Award
10. Untitled 2 (What Went Wrong)
11. XLNT (Bonus Track)
12. The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train (Bonus Track)

1. Hexenszene
2. Side Effects Of Being Tired
3. Kantina / Were, Are And Was Or Is

1. Mile Me Deaf
2. Broken E-Strings
3. Totality
4. MK Ultra
5. Seen Not Heard
6. Caterpillar
7. Miserific Condition
8. Everything Is Weird
9. Negated
10. Said Serial
11. Census
12. Plight
13. Stumbling Block
14. Eternalux
15. New Radio Hit
16. The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train
17. Crab Nebula

1. We Invent You
2. Look A Ghost
3. December
4. Treachery
5. Terminus
6. Demons Sing Love Songs
7. Off This Century
8. One Lick Less
9. Scarlette
10. October All Over
11. Summer Freeze
12. Radio Gra
13. Below The Salt
14. Who Cares

On a quick little side note, their entire discography has been reissued by The Numero Group over the past few years, and included in a number of box sets. They all contain 3 LP's, with each containing two of their albums, and a third LP consisting of rarities and other material. They come in some very impressive packaging as well. In addition to the LP's, they've also released a 10-disc CD boxset spanning their entire career, which is also a very cool collection. You can find all of this over at Numero Group's website, which is here: http://www.numerogroup.com/artists/unwound

6 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this great post!

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  2. I´ve been checking your blog for years and never said anything. It´s not fair. Thank you, thank you, thank you...muchísimas gracias por toda la increíble música que he conocido en tu blog.

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  3. Amazing... thank you for this post and maintaining this phenomenal resource!!!

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  4. Phenomenal post, I couldn't agree more....was lucky enough to meet and catch them live back in the day. Fake Train "was or is" life altering to me.

    ReplyDelete