Music

Unsane: Wreck

Unsane is a band who knows exactly what it’s like to tour the sewers, and languish amongst the dregs of society.


Unsane

Wreck

Label: Alternative Tentacles
US Release Date: 2012-03-20
UK Release Date: 2012-04-02
Amazon
iTunes

Casting a bloodshot eye back over Unsane’s career, one question aches for an answer – why is it this band never reaped the full rewards for the dues they've paid? A number of possible reasons come to mind – timing issues, management decisions, personal tragedies, lack of a gimmick and the glaring lack of a definitive album. The previous six records released bearing the sanguinary stamp of Unsane demonstrated varying levels of hostility and staunchly held grasp of the band's corrupt sound, without one release reigning over the rest. It therefore comes as no surprise that with seventh full-length Wreck, Unsane remain resolute in their approach; singer/guitarist Chris Spencer continuing to spit liberal doses of realism upon the polluted bass-lines and fractured riffs that made the band's grammatically incorrect name.

Unsane's resolve for consistency continues to flow over to the packaging for Wreck, the picture of a hanging hand completely covered and dripping with blood bestows an equally stark, beautiful and distressing image as that which clothed previous album Visqueen. The disturbing part being – this is real life, and even though fantasy may be a pre-requisite for all things metal; gory tales of horror and the devil are not half as frightening as the day-to-day realities we face living in this modern world. This cynical world view has always been engrained in Unsane's DNA and upon visiting Spencer's lyrics for Wreck, it clearly remains a major part of Unsane's aesthetic. On "Rat" he desperately howls, "No way back / Live like rats," as the drums cut through the song's corkscrew groove, and on the downtrodden "Decay" he proceeds to lament upon the negativity resulting from a recently failed relationship. Instrumentally these tracks are up to carrying the heavy lyrical subject matter with the bass-heavy, verse groove found on "Rat" twisting and turning like a Rottweiler on a leash and the volcanic mid-riff found on "Decay" underscoring the pained, quasi-screams of vocal lines such as "All hope has gone away."

Third track "No Chance" also provides a note-worthy highlight, it's use of the harmonica recalling "This Stops at the River" from Visqueen which gives the track a dusting of "spit on the floor" Americana comparable to the sound explored by Coalesce on Ox. Spencer's vocal performance on this song sounds especially unhinged, as if he is gripping sanity's fringe for dear life. From here, however, the album's dynamic quality snags somewhat on the predicable and repetitious "Pigeon" and "Metropolis". The instrumentation and vocals here sounding uninspired compared to the quality of the preceding tracks. Consequently the album loses its potency. "Ghost" claws back some of the listener's attention with its growling bass-lines and crooked riffs, but it's not until the swampy sprawl of "Stuck" that full attention is finally restored. This track has the variety that was missing from the songs that form the mid-section of Wreck, and its placing earlier on the track-list or indeed another song in the same vein could really have benefited the flow of the album. It's quiet/loud dynamics and gruffly sang verses giving the song an air of post-grunge gloom before the crumbling wall of hardcore riffs take over. Wreck ends with a sneering cover of Flipper's "Ha Ha Ha" – Unsane capably make this their own but the b-side feel of the track and the grating chorus ends the album on an uneventful note.

Wreck ultimately is a solid yet frustrating listen. The opening three cuts are amongst some of the finest the band have ever produced, while the majority of tracks that form the second half of the album lack real personality and invention, sounding like Unsane on autopilot. When Unsane hit their stride their collision of Amrep noise rock, hardcore and the garage grunge of Seattle's lost sons Mudhoney played through the sonic rumble of the Melvin's is colossal. Unfortunately, Wreck's lack of magnetic song-writing from start to finish means that definitive record has yet again eluded them. Cynicism edges towards the reality that this elusive record may never come. Let's just hope for Unsane's sake that they leave the pessimism to the lyrical subject matter and approach the next album with a cup being half full mentality. If their past artwork is anything to go by, the odds are that this proverbial cup with be more than likely half-filled with blood. As it stands, Wreck is only half filled with memorable songs.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image