PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Super Unison: Auto

Poetic justice at once ferocious and dreamy, Auto sees Super Unison as a voice that takes you and grabs your attention.

Super Unison


Label: Deathwish Inc.
US Release Date: 2016-10-14
UK Release Date: 2016-10-14

While all music has its issues in terms of artist diversity and/or sexism, there has always been a unique attraction for non-men within the world of "hardcore" (a term originated in the late ‘70s that expressed a newer, quicker, and fiercer side of punk. It is responsible for helping establish the feminist musical movement, Riot Grrrl). Women began taking up the microphone and creating music they loved not only for that overt purpose but also to express the frustrations and prejudices they faced. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, prominent bands like Bikini Kill paved the way for female musicians to take up an instrument/microphone. Since then, and little by little, more and more women have been taking prominent roles in heavy music.

A relative newcomer to the hardcore punk world, Super Unison has its roots in the raw emotional power of vocalist Meghan O’Neil Pennie. If the name rings a bell, it's because O’Neil Pennie used to front Bay Area hardcore outfit Punch (which was more of a straight-up hardcore act by comparison). Those aware of Punch will immediately pick up on both slight similarities and blunt differences on Auto, O’Neil Pennie’s first record with the band. The LP packs plenty of strong variety while also balancing out its surprises. It is a speedy album in all its ferocity and more pulled-back moments, and it stays enjoyable from beginning to end.

Whereas Punch never saw its attitude or volume drop below a ten, Super Unison offers more diversity in their range of auras and sounds. Opening song “Prove Yourself”, for instance, introduces a bright fuzz that accompanies O’Neil Pennie’s clean vocals wonderfully throughout the track. They are clean, strong, poetic, and organized, but with a ruggedness clinging to their edges, too. While there are bits of aggressive punk energy found there, the real kick comes with the following two tracks, “Keeper” and "Losing You". Guitarist Kevin DeFranco is a strong component of what helps Auto be such a diverse work, and it's on songs like these that we get an idea of the range found within the collection. While the former retains the opener's brightness (with a speedy punk rhythm to boot), the latter kicks it up a notch to match O’Neil Pennie’s screams. In this way, Auto doesn’t present anything technically mind-blowing, choosing instead to focus on the tried and true method of the atypical shifting tempos found in punk. The album’s strength instrumentally is primarily found through aura and emotion (thanks to the usage of punk thrashing structure, as well as moments of rest through warmth and fuzz).

There are times at which that aggressive nature also finds itself masked in a new way, making for a “new sense of heavy”. Songs such as “You Don’t Tell Me” and “Time & Distance” keep the speed through their run time, but add either fuzz as moments of pause, or heft to each note. This use adds more to the emotional elements at play, with tracks like these permeating with a somber frequency and weight. True, these sorts of techniques can sometimes be overused, forcing the listener to experience emotion rather than letting it play out organically, yet with Super Unison there is that balance not just throughout the record but within specific songs that allow the listener to process sounds and emotions. While driving instrumentality is found on every track, the band never pummels repeatedly or lingers on somber energy; instead, they allow ample time to comprehend the message.

While the album is an instrumental treat, O’Neil Pennie is the star of the record, as her lyrics and vocals likely take the lead more than anything else (so the instrumentation acts as a tool to make it all the more effective). Every song on the record captures the essence of hardcore punk’s storytelling presence, and O’Neil Pennie’s use of cleans and screams only make those stories more prominent. Lines such as: “Listen here / Little girl / You know you’re living in a man’s world / It’s so hard / To hear you / We don’t think you tell the truth” ( “You Don’t Tell Me”) are but an example of the views and ideas to be found. Lyrically, there is desperation to open eyes to issues that surround our world to remind people that they are not alone in their struggles. Here, O’Neil Pennie once again stands in the spotlight as someone who's not afraid to share his or her experiences and make for a positive presence in moving forward.

Auto is a wonderful mix of mystery, intrigue, and energy. Track after track hooks the listener with drive and emotion, making for a well-balanced instrumental, lyrical, and vocal treat. Many were upset with the break-up of Punch and Meghan O’Neil Pennie’s departure, but those folks will be happy to know that Super Unison is far more than just a strong return; it's a memorable one, too. Super Unison continues to carry the torch for those who want to find their place in an art form that, on the surface, may appear to be a boy’s club, but contains rage and power for everyone from all walks of life.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.