Unsane

Published on July 12th, 2018

Noise rock is gloriously difficult to describe. Take the Melvins, Cows, Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers — now try to explain what they sound like to the person next you. You might hit on one point that captures a moment in time for each, but generally they defy a single explanation.

Unsane is one of those bands. Their breakthrough album, “Scattered, Smothered and Covered,” released in 1995 on Amphetamine Reptile Records, helped bring noise to the masses while maintaining the integrity and unpredictability of their music. The skate-punk massacre video for “Scrape,” the album’s flagship single, was a breakthrough, too  — basically MTV’sJackass” and DIY YouTube mayhem several years ahead of schedule.

There was a time when punks and metalheads couldn’t agree on much: Motorhead maybe? D.R.I.? But the aforementioned noise rockers, and specifically Unsane, stirred heavy riffage and bad attitudes into a stew everyone interested in extreme music could lap up.

Unsane have taken breaks but have never really quit being Unsane. They keep building on and improving their sound. The band’s newest, “Sterilize,” released in September, is a killer slab of tone and dissonance, seething with adrenaline and bad intentions. It’s not a nice album, but it’s a great album. It may be the perfect record for this time in American history: dark, foreboding and brutal; the aural equivalent of a well-deserved punch in the nose that’s been a long time coming. Listen to it while you stare at the dirty street watching the blood flow, contemplating your life choices.

Unsane have made the rounds of most of the record labels that release, frankly, awesome stuff. This time around Southern Lord Records has the distinction issuing Unsane, and closing the five-year gap between “Sterilize” and its predecessor, “Wreck,” on Jello Biafra’s venerable Alternative Tentacles label. With bands such as Jesus Lizard and Unsane returning to the studio, and with insurgents like METZ, Young Widows and Pissed Jeans cribbing from the ’90s noise-rock playbook, perhaps that noise renaissance is right around the corner? We may just be in luck for a good time of heavy sounds. Watch the horizon for the destruction.

Unsane and Wrong play July 25 at Gramps in Miami. gramps.com ~ Tim Moffatt

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