Unwounded - The Best of
I feel like I should give my own playlist justice by writing something about it. I feel this is probably the best place to write about this still relatively new (to me) band who have more or less taken over my life over the last few months. There’s a couple of reasons for this. 1)It’s how I got into them: There’s such an incredible wealth of material from this generally unheard of band that it can be a little overwhelming to take it all in. Particularly when their “Magnum Opus” is a difficult, subtle, long double-album that takes some time to really get one’s head around, more a mood than anything else; it meant that I concentrated on individual tracks before really conquering any one album. You’ll notice there are far more tracks from said masterpiece, but I don’t think its perfect (just damn close). Instead, I believe their most consistent record to be the equally impressive (but quite different) “Repetition”. This brings me neatly onto my second reason: like the incredibly similar Fugazi, I don’t really have a definitive favourite album, I just end up gravitating towards their final, “departure” records because they are so adventurous, exciting and pushing the limits of what (post)-hardcore can be. (little note: I will write about my adulation for that band and their record ‘The Argument’ soon enough).
I haven’t even really given all their records the time needed, which is why this list is centred towards the aforementioned Repetition, Leaves Turn Inside You and the excellent but top-heavy Fake Plastic Ideas, as these are the three I’ve given the most spinning time.
Here’s what I do know. Unwound were an incredibly underrated band. My pal Rob (shout out to Holy State’s final show on Friday) recently posted a tour diary by Unwound where they played shows with the aforementioned Fugazi and their fairly apparent heroes Sonic Youth, detailing the lukewarm, if, hostile receptions they received across the country outside their native Olympia, Washington (an incredible hotbed I’m sure you’ll agree.) Unwound do something stunning with their music. Like Fugazi (who are eerily similar) they messed around with conventions of what it meant to be a hardcore band throughout the 90s, recording just about as many albums over the same time-span, all consistently great and progressing with (more or less) every attempt, building to their final mission statement. The only real differences is that they’re from the West Coast (the other Washington) and that there are only three of them (something I still don’t really understand given how richly dense these albums are).
For me, Unwound capture the catharsis that is often ascribed, and which I felt, with Screamo music. The difference, fairly obviously, is that this is far more measured and considered. I’ve written before about how I lost interest in Screamo when it ceased to offer that little bit more I was looking for beyond reverting to fairly worn (noisy) archetypal songs, and Unwound it seems are the answer to that. They are, at their core, an intensely heavy and dark band - just look at the pitch-black artwork of Leaves… - but that doesn’t mean they don’t find a beauty inherent in such dim places.
One thing I always remember being initially disappointed about when I got into Sonic Youth is that they didn’t always hit the aesthetic highs I wanted them to. I mean, they did eventually, but I always remember looking for a greater dedication to the song, something SY do only when they feel like it. This isn’t a complaint really, I don’t believe I know anyone who enjoys ALL of Sonic Youth’s music (and to be honest if they told me they did I’d think they were lying) but Unwound channel something from SY’s best moments (Daydream Nation, Sister and Sonic Nurse, since you asked) into everything I find exciting about punk rock as found in Fugazi or even Trail of Dead’s case. But unlike Trail of Dead (whom I do love dearly but all the same) Unwound hardly ever revert to some sort of easy comfort with their music. They are endlessly fascinating with what they do, making them an extremely re-listen-able band (and it really is in repeat listens that this band click - hence ‘Repetition’) but have a consistent defining sound that could only come from them.
It may be late in the day, but for me and this band, its still morning.