Unsane


Total Destruction

Unsane - Total Destruction ©1992 Matador Records
1. Body Bomb
2. Straight
3. Black Book
4. Trench
5. Dispatched
6. Throw It Away
7. Broke
8. Road Trip
9. Wayne
10. Get Away
11. S.O.S.
12. 455

For Unsane, the disgusting album covers, vividly succinct songtitles, and almost business-like approach to live shows all encompass what is the crux of their experience: they know why they're here and they know why you're here, so let's not fuck around, okay? The entire nihilistic thrust of Unsane is making people fans of these guys (aye, myself included) drawing bitter misanthropes to their cranky-wagon like Calista Flockhart to an exercise bicycle. Total Destruction is the first Unsane full-length featuring Vinny "the axis" Signorelli, and rhythmically, few can touch this sort of supremacy; the choppy guitar riffs and sturdy basslines are given utmost room to breathe and wander, yet it all seems to revolve and cohere around Signorelli's groove-laden drums. Spencer's shouty vocals give this a hardcore feel, but the songs are entirely too midpaced and eccentric to look comfortable under that flag; it straddles a number of these sounds, like noisecore, aforementioned hardcore, metal, even rockishly melodic at times. The point is, Unsane have created their own little niche exclusively for the disenfranchised shadow-dwellers, and they are not backing down. And I cannot help but get on board. Favorite self-explanatory lyric care of "Body Bomb": "I went down/And it wasn't pretty". Focused, intense, and weirdly genius.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 03/1999

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Scattered, Smothered & Covered

Unsane - Scattered, Smothered & Covered ©1995 Amphetamine Reptile
1. Scrape
2. Alleged
3. Blame Me
4. Out
5. Can't See
6. Get Off My Back
7. Blew
8. Empty Cartridge
9. No Loss
10. Test My Faith
11. Ruin
12. Swim

Unsane's only major label album, Total Destruction, while brilliant in its own way, is also probably the most unpalatable album they've released. The recording is live and stagey sounding, lacking fullness and impact, while rationing its hooks and melodies in favour of a dense, hammering hardcore/metal hybrid.

Scattered, Smothered, and Covered is the follow up and it is here that the band's signature sound begins to take form. The best songs, like "Can't See", "Empty Cartridge", "Blew" and the MTV semi-hit, "Scrape", draw attention to the band's formidable strengths: Signorelli's austere, hard-hitting drumming, the simple, groove-laden (yes, I hate that word too but there it is…) almost swinging guitar and bass riffs, and Spencer's barking vocals, delivered in a manner every bit as terse and economical as the song titles suggest.

My favorite song, "Alleged", opens with an harmonica playing over a bluesy bass riff (more proof these guys don't care what genre they're suppose to be) and, like all of Unsane's songs, launches into some cryptic episode of urban conflict. The song is all groove rock'n'roll reinterpreted through a metal and hardcore idiom, and is unimpeachably powerful and memorable.

Overall the album is uneven; "Blame Me" sounds oddly unfinished and the plodding "Get Off My Back", placed squarely mid-album, derails the album's momentum. Still, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered is not only one of the best albums from New York's early 90s "noise rock" scene, but it is also the foundational Unsane album.

Note that this album, difficult to obtain for many years, was re-released recently along with the band's 1997 live album Amrep Christmas by the good folks at RRRecords/Division Records.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 03/2007

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Occupational Hazard

Unsane - Occupational Hazard ©1998 Relapse
1. Committed
2. This Plan
3. Over Me
4. Take In The Stray
5. Stop
6. Wait To Lose
7. Sick
8. Hasmat
9. Smells Like Rain
10. Lead
11. Humidifier
12. Scam
13. Understand

Hailing from the noise rock scene that has blossomed in NYC for the past decade plus, Unsane presents what is one of the more palatable platters to come along in some time. Roughly in the same territory as Today is the Day, with a bit of Helmet and Quicksand added to the matter, Unsane doesn't fall prey to the noise half of noise rock, instead relying on powerful grooves and exceptionally dirty guitars to create a monster of a record. Generally I'm not overly fond of the bands that are involved in the NYC, but Unsane's ability to write SONGS makes them a winner. Plus they feature drummer Vinny Signorelli, who has played alongside NYC Noise Godfather J.G. "Foetus" Thirlwell on the latter's live outfit and on a couple CDs. His inventive rhythms (as in "Scam") and thundering cascade of percussion drives the music along, allowing guitarist/singer Chris Spencer and bassist Dave Curran to groove right along. Perhaps the only negative aspect of the album is the distorted shouts of Spencer as they tend to get a little monotonous by the album's end. However, that's not enough to bring the album down. Next time I pissed off at roommates, traffic, my job, or anything else, Unsane has provided a soundtrack for me.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1998

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