Release Date: Sep 4, 2015
Record label: Numero
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock
By the late '90s, Unwound were asking themselves whether the band was worth fighting for. The trio had invested more time and money into their 1998 album Challenge for a Civilized Society than they had any other, and they’d never been more disappointed by the returns. Trading the unrelenting roar of its predecessors for hit-or-miss studio experimentation, the album alienated longtime fans and halted any career momentum the group had gained from their 1996 near-breakthrough Repetition.
The final instalment of Numero Group’s comprehensive and loving reissue of Unwound’s catalogue sees the Washington group’s 1998 album, Challenge For A Civilised Society, and 2001’s Leaves Turn Inside You collected alongside singles, B-sides, unreleased tracks and demos in a beautifully presented four-disc box. Empire finds Unwound four albums into a career that had already seen them transform from a primal evocation of what may have happened if grunge looked to post-punk (rather than scuzzed-up radio rock) for inspiration, to a more considered – experimental, even – take on alt. rock.
Some bands get more polished and approachable over the passage of time, either in a bid to reach a wider audience or simply as a product of having played together enough to develop a greater level of technical skill. Unwound, however, started out abrasive and challenging, and they stayed that way with a bloody-minded determination through most of their career, and when they did decide to approach a less punishing sound on their final album, they did so in a way that was as much of a challenge to listeners as their more chaotic work. The proof can be found in Empire, the fourth and final installment in a series of box sets from Numero Group charting Unwound's body of work from before the beginning to after the end.
Empire is the fourth instalment of the Numero Group's extensive and elaborate overview of Pacific Northwest explorers Unwound. Two years into the series, and some 13 years after the band collapsed on itself, newcomers have learned a lot about the Tumwater, WA trio. In their earliest days, shortly after morphing from Giant Henry into Unwound, the act fired off scattershot, scrappy punk salvos like "Bionic" and "Kid is Gone.