New Plastic Ideas
Kill Rock Stars
By: Eric Greenwood
For its third actual album (second for Kill Rock Stars) Unwound turns its artful punk into a swelling mass of melody and rhythmic propulsion. Justin Trosper’s vocals reach new levels of versatility as well, rising above the hoarse yell he had so successfully employed on Fake Train and the early seven-inches.
Unwound seem more pensive with an exaggerated emphasis on dynamics. The quiet parts are quieter, and the loud parts are louder. “Entirely Different Matters” churns with a mechanical riff, loaded with controlled feedback and abrasive noise as Tropser proffers up his bored angst.
“What Was Wound” takes it one step further, mixing a circuitous riff with a full-on aural assault. “Envelope” is the first glimpse of the new direction, veering off into melodic territory. Again Trosper’s voice sounds emotive and sincere, even in a shredding yell. The rhythmic interplay between bassist Vern Rumsey and drummer Sarah Lund is astounding, as it blasts like a mountain of noise one minute while collapsing into a sparse, even lovely cadence the next.
Instrumentals like “Abstraktions” prove that the band is serious about pushing the limitations of punk. It literally sounds like an outtake from The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds with its haunting yet chunky bass line and ghostly, meandering guitar line. But then “All Souls Day” shows that the band can still outrock any of its peers.
Unwound’s music moves in waves: it can be caustic but there’s a beauty underneath. Trosper’s lyrics have shed some of the self-aware teen angst of the band’s early recordings for a more poetic approach. Nothing obvious, of course. His lyrics are insightful and deeply abstruse: “all I do is create an illusion/all I need is a little intrusion/form a sound with an idea/hope to drown before I see you/cause I was drinking my conclusion/and I was finding my necessity” (“Arboretum”).
New Plastic Ideas is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard by a punk band. Few bands in the past decade have created anything this vital and affecting, particularly in the punk rock community.