Unwound - No Energy [VINYL] - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Unwound - No Energy [VINYL]

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9 Release Date:2014-10-13

In the early 80s there was a move away from the guitar mainstream as a new generation of youth sought out something much more edgy and exciting. Born out of the US, this was to be defined as alternative rock or college rock. Drawing on the remnants of post-punk it was led by the likes of R.E.M., Minutemen and Husker Du, it set the ground-works towards a much louder, abrasive sound that was to emerge in the late 80s and early 90s.

Deep down in the basements and cellars across the provincial US States, kids were picking up guitars in anger and combining their love of hardcore punk with the breakthrough of alternative rock to create a leftfield mix of discordant guitars with cathartic call and response tirades, to be refined as post-hardcore. It produced a high water mark of influential and meteoric guitar bands that included Black Flag, Girls Against Boys, Jesus Lizard, Melvins, Sonic Youth, and Fugazi.

Another band that was part of this scene was Unwound and now we have the release of  No Energy which is the fourth compilation to be issued by The Numero Group and collects the albums Future of What?’ and Repetition from 1995/96 plus singles and live tracks. Unwound were a prolific band whose lengthy lifespan and steely agnostic stance to not play the system has seen them viewed as senior but under the radar torchbearers in a musical counter-culture which they were so instrumental in creating and sustaining.

The gloves are off right from the start with the rampant and bellicose opener ‘New Energy’. It’s jabbing, dissonant, malevolent mix of pummelling drums, thrashing guitar and Justin Trosper’s belligerent delivery leaves you breathless. He tells us bluntly to get off our arses and do something with our petty little lives: “Where's your energy/ There's no energy… State your age/ Set the stage/ Start a fire for something new”.

But behind the urgency of their driving sound, there are some disturbing lyrics on such dark, melancholy numbers as ‘Descension’: “Another episode behind the tainted screen/ Choking victim of its own vomit, naturally… We're always sinking/ An endless circle”. ‘Accidents on Purpose’ doesn’t lift the mood either, as a bass with the viscosity of treacle grinds purposefully while Justin Trosper’s angry delivery doesn't hold back: “Actors, bastards, factory workers/ It was an accident, it was an accident/ Beauty parlours, racecar drivers/ It was an accident, it was an accident.” 

 All the songs on this compilation have the sound of a band on the edge of a powder-keg ready to blow up. It’s similar to what Fugazi did on their In on the Kill Taker album but much more harrowing and sombre. There are no shards of light with Unwound, their tightening musical grip, claustrophobic sound and misanthropic lyrics take you to a very dark place. Where this dark place is nobody knows but what it does is continue to deliver relevance to another generation of disaffected youth.

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