Untied States - Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
Owain Paciuszko 09/10/2009
Atlanta five-piece Untied States new LP is a confident, post-punk rock record that has the feel of Grizzly Bear doing battle with Sonic Youth. From the opening of dischordant Gorilla the Bull there's a thoroughly energetic and imaginative chord running through their output, it's lively in a way that is always refreshing to the ears. Regardless of how much new music you like, you'll breathe a sigh of relief and think 'These guys get it.'
Not Fences, Mere Masks trundles forward with vocals somewhat akin to The Vines in psychedelic Autumn Shade-mode and woozy guitars barking over frenetically pattered percussion. It comes cascading towards a spine-tinglingly menacing and - dare I say it - groovy finale, with instruments clattering towards a climax like a steam powered war machine.
The two figureheads of the band, Colin Arnstein and Skip Engelbrecht, met as four year olds in Florida and moved from tackle football to forming a band. This is the first full length release by Untied States to not be mixed in their home, and for once the tricks and tools of a studio have given a band a huge lease of life, allowing their sound to expand into the places their scope and ambition desires. The grand echoing swagger of Unsilvered Mirrors has all the addled bombast of Nirvana going stadium-sized. Elsewhere Grey Tangerines uses samples to great effect, adding an additional, glitchy vibe to their cataclysmic sound.
Things slow down for the synthy, waltz of These Dead Birds which recalls Sparklehorse in part, and all too accurately is a sonic interpretation of the album's chosen subject matter; mental illness. Wandering into the spooky opening of Take Time For Always which becomes a ghost train at hi-speed hurtling you down the tracks like a malevolent cover version of Johnny Cash's Walk The Line done by The Banana Splits. Bye Bye Bi-Polar begins with grumbling bass jostling against light guitars accompanied by an electronic hiss of computer blips and bleeps, it's a hugely atmospheric experience that switches again and again with Brian Jonestown Massacre-like poetic skill from mood to mood.
Wrestling With Entropy in the Rehabbed Factory is a glorious, pseudo-operatic happening with the aural grandeur of Mogwai dancing alongside a late-The Beatles experimentalism and sense of melody. You can almost hear snatches of potential pop records drowning under the eerie percussion and dark chords of a pummelled grand piano, like Nick Cave chained to an anchor and sinking into the depths of delirium. Delusions Are Grander may find the band in somewhat safer musical territory, it kind of has a structure of sorts, but, again, it's a panic-breathed and wayward track that might bring to mind early-Muse or Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters's Superstar.
Penultimate track Holding Up Walls is a quick-footed two minute nugget and again brings to mind The Vines (but back when they were deserving of their hype), it borders on a chorus with the repeated lyric; 'Let me make it safe.' It segues into Kowtow Great Equalizer with a whirr and flurry of electrofuzz that lends a certain neck-hair-raising anticipation to where the band are about to lead you and they close the record with a reverbed Rawhide finale.
I'm afraid of hyperbole, but this is an LP that track-by-track keeps outdoing itself; even if you like an album there's a fear that with each new song the band will implode and go off the rails. That's not the case here. This record is a feast of sound for a hungry mind, and whilst some may find it too much to bear, it's 'descent into madness' is brilliantly realised and - for those who can stomach it - utterly compelling to listen to.