Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I've been listening to the Numero Group's recent Unwound reissue Rat Conspiracy The three-disc set (although it is only being released on vinyl and mp3) collects Unwound's first two albums and a third disc of singles and outtakes. 1993's Fake Train is and remains one of my favorite albums of all time, and it was nice to revisit 1994's New Plastic Ideals. Unwound did an amazing job of combining the energy and ferocity of hardcore with some of the noisy art-rock of Sonic Youth. The result is music that  has the aggression of hardcore with the emotional and musical complexity of post-punk and emo, with very little of the pretension or bullshit. Unwound channeled the feelings of depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction and confusion of late adolescence. Their songs are about being bored, feeling unsettled, having nervous energy that you can't contain. They alternate between pretty melodies and all-out noise, falling apart unexpectedly and then retreating into moments of quiet contemplation. I don't know what it says about me that this hits me just as hard at 39 as it did when I first heard it at 19. Maybe somethings you don't outgrow.

One song I've rediscovered with this set is "What Was Wound." It starts off as fairly typical jangly early 90s indie rock, albeit with a tempo that's a bit off. It follows the typical quiet-loud-quiet dynamic that Nirvana perfected. Unwound does it so well though, creating a feeling of unpredictability and controlled chaos. "Salt of the earth on an open wound" indeed.

If you want more proof, watch this entire show from around the time New Plastic Ideals came out, or just skip to 8:00 to watch them play "Nervous Energy" live.

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