Album Reviews

Unwound: Rat Conspiracy (Numero Group)

unwound

Numero Group’s Unwound campaign continues with box set number three, entitled Rat Conspiracy. This set covers the year 1993 and 1994, including the band’s proper debut album, Fake Train, and its follow-up, New Plastic Ideas, as well as a handful of singles.

Though the band had already been around for three years, it wasn’t until debut album Fake Train that Unwound found itself the focus of the indie-rock world at large. It was the first full-length album released on Kill Rock Stars, and it was an impressive debut album. At the time, the band was compared to Sonic Youth, a not-unfair comparison, even if it did seem slightly dismissive. Sure, “Nervous Energy” and “Honourosis” might feel like Daydream Nation outtakes, but other moments, such as “Kantina” and “Pure Pain Sugar” show the young band had a style all their own. And who didn’t put “Valentine Card” on mix-tapes to crushes that year? But it’s also interesting to note that “Feeling$ Real” and “Lucky Acid” sound a helluva lot like what Nirvana would do on In Utero, which wouldn’t be recorded until after Fake Train’s release. Is it possible that Kurt Cobain was aware of what they were doing, and found inspiration?

The band’s growth over 1993, though, was impressive. Their next release came early in 1994, the “Negated”/“Said Serial” single on Troubleman, and it was clear that the band had honed its sound into a compact, succinct noise-rock. Their second album, New Plastic Ideas, came in March 1994, and it showed a leaner, tighter Unwound had developed. Lead singer Justin Trosper’s singing was clearer, the band’s performances ttauter, and those justifiable comparisons to Sonic Youth that might have plagued Fake Train were quickly diminishing. Instead, they were going in various compelling directions, from the boogie-rock of “Entirely Different Matters” and “What Was Wound” to the darker, heavier fare of “Usual Dosage” and “Arboretum.” The relative lack of unreleased material on this set also suggests a sense of economy, not wasting material, releasing everything of quality.

This formative era of Unwound produced some great material, and would set the standard for what would come next….

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