Untied States Instant Everything, Constant Nothing(Distile Records) Buy it from Insound
Radiohead, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sonic Youth... I hear them all.
Within minutes when my ears did receive Gorilla The Bull, track one from Instant Everything, Constant Nothing, it was knee-jerk wisdom that initially caused me to sort of write the album off as competent Xerox regurge meant to appease 90s glut. With nearly twenty years invested before Nevermind turns classic, it’s not shocking that more and more bands seem to be revisiting this era of dirty rock music, Atlanta’s Untied States seemingly part of this mass-revival.
(Or, maybe it’s just something I’ve been noticing lately. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Pining for the good ol’ days?)
It doesn’t take much to further blur the line of delineation between derivation and innovation; sometimes it’s just a matter of taste and observation. It’s evident that Untied States wears their influences like ill-sewn patches on a brightly colored corduroy vest, but it’s also evident that they’ve made use of these influences. Realizing that there isn’t much wisdom in knee-jerk reactions, you listen, consider and eventually figure it out. Is it excusable? Inexcusable? Or, does it have something?
Untied States has something, an evolutionary almost facsimile that breaks through a familiar wrapping. Consider them an alternative to Alternative, 120 Minutes prog experiments that either sounds straight forward (Gorilla The Bull), or unpredictable (Not Fences, Mere Masks). Not Fences, Mere Masks was sort of an epiphany, a wildly articulated rock song that suddenly grinds into a bass and drum spin cycle while the six-string sputters a wall of dissonance. It’s on the level with Sonic Youth or Fugazi, but it’s a different construct. The language isn’t new, just rearranged and unexpected. Honestly, the surprises are what kept me going back to Instant Everything, Constant Nothing: its selections of catchy rock songs so readily walking that line, jumping on either side and ably making use of both derivation and innovation. Wisely, they draw from both wells.
The simplest addition of an electronic pulse for Grey Tangerines really adds something to the song, though the element is countered with real percussion. Drama and sensitivity placates These Dead Birds, reverb piano and atonal guitar sounds drive Take Time For Always. There’s attention to device but never at the expense of the musicians and, despite their rather rampant array of techniques, they still sound remarkably consistent. There’s an absence of hooks, but riffs draw you in.
Untied States approaches alienating territory with Wrestling With Entropy In The Rehabbed Factory, an orchestrated crash of percussion and distant piano creating this carnival of oddities that seems too ambitious for this album. I only say that because, with the exception of Entropy and the electronic-laced Holding Up Walls, I wouldn't accuse Untied States of taking that many risks. For whatever outlandish soundscapes they explore, approachable material (Gorilla The Bull, Delusions Are Grander, Kowtow Great Equalizer) is available to maintain some air of accessibility. Even the Radiohead-for-beginners disposition of Unsilvered Mirrors and Radiohead-for-graduates playfulness of Bye Bye Bi-Polar sort of act as a security blanket, subliminal variations of a sound tried and true enough to score points.
To their credit though, it pays to have variety, and I don’t detract points for bands that want to write rock songs. Especially, when they’re good.