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*** Unwound


(Kill Rock Stars)

[Unwound] This Olympia-based trio were the first band offered the chance to put out a disc on Slim Moon's then spoken-word-only label Kill Rock Stars back in 1991. Five years later (and just as many CDs into their partnership), Unwound remain perfect practitioners of the indie-rock aesthetic. The formula is pretty straightforward -- grainy amp distortion and blurry dissonance layered over sharp bursts of Fugazi-style staccato guitars and hard, focused bass and drum patterns, numbing monochromatic vocals that segue suddenly into bouts of frustrated screaming.

Unwound mastered that approach a couple of discs ago; now, with the help of producer/electronics-wiz Steve Fisk, who's manned the board for all of the group's full-lengths, they're moving forward by reaching into the past. Repetition mixes in a dub-heavy instrumental reminiscent of early PiL ("Sensible"), a high-pitched feedback frenzy buoyed by a stark funk backbeat ("Fingernails on a Chalkboard") that recalls Gang of Four's "Anthrax," elegant Tom Verlaine-style guitar lines, and skronk punctuated by synth noise that harks back to the heyday of Captain Beefheart ("Corpse Pose"). The likes of Rancid and Green Day pale in comparison to the challenge of Unwound: this is the real punk rock.

-- Matt Ashare

(Unwound join Blonde Redhead at the Middle East on Friday, May 31.)

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