Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Alternative Tentacles
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
As anyone who's hung out there in the past decade could tell you, New York's Lower East Side is no longer a scary place. It's the kind of hood where you can chow on designer meatballs, drink Pabst in a neo-dive bar, and catch an artfully rustic indie folk band. Sure, some gritty pockets remain, but it wouldn't even come close to ranking on a list of contemporary NYC's bogeyman areas.
Review Summary: Unsane in the membraneUnsane are a group that live up to all of the grammatically incorrect glory their name implies. The brutishly noisy New York trio have displayed wanton aggression, filth and fury throughout a career just shy of a quarter century. Wreck, their seventh full-length effort, is pretty much everything you would come to expect from an Unsane record.
Unsane's seventh studio album, 2012's simply but eloquently named Wreck, finds the New York noise-rock pioneers older, wiser, possibly not as angry as they once were, but no less miserable, either. In fact, if many prior Unsane records felt like a vicious kick administered by a bunch of steel-booted street thugs, Wreck feels more like waking up from a medically induced coma a few days later: the searing pain is blinding, the body useless, and the ears have no legs to give them escape. This may explain the nonchalant immunity with which a large number of patiently paced songs on hand, including "Pigeon," "Don't," and "Stuck" reveal themselves, then calmly state their sinister case with tormented melodies cast against the fundamental raw goods of the power trio lineup: the listener's helpless state requires no element of surprise, after all.
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 have made a career out of making ugly music, and they maintain this tradition with Wreck, their first full-length in five years and a true return to form. The bloodlust displayed on opener “Rat” and “Ghost” recalls 1995’s Scattered, Smothered & Covered (arguably the strongest and most visceral record of the band’s career), and should have old-school fans salivating. The songs are underpinned with the clattering drum abuse of Vinnie Signorelli and crunchy, jarring basslines of Dave Curran, allowing vocalist/guitarist Chris Spencer to run rampant.
For their first album since 2007's excellent Visqueen, long-suffering NYC noise-rock pioneers Unsane do pretty much exactly what they should: lay down great, jagged, skronky riffs (see opener "Rat"), chilling, bass-led slow bruisers that threaten to be called "melodic" then threaten you for even considering calling them such (the amazing "Decay"), and tons of that classic, pummelling Unsane noise rock ("Ghost" is a prime example, but so is much of the rest of the album). The Unsane harmonica even makes a return, and the six-plus-minute "Stuck" is a huge jump into leftfield, featuring some almost-nice-sounding slide guitar work and a subdued vocal performance over drums that aren't being tortured and destroyed. It works okay, but on any Unsane album, one deviation is enough; we know what we want and it's not surprises.