Friday, May 8, 2015

Unsane w/Turbo ACs and Hearts of Darkness -- Creepy Crawl, October 18, 2003

The last time Unsane came through St. Louis, it was promoted as their reunion tour. At that time, vocalist/guitarist Chris Spencer and bassist Dave Curran had already formed new bands in the Cutthroats 9 and J.J Paradise Players Club. So I figured that I was seeing the last of Unsane. Now wasn’t I naïve? As it turns out with most reunion/farewell tours (can you say The Dismemberment Plan?), Unsane wasn’t quite finished. Earlier this month, Relapse Records released the band’s career-retrospective Lambhouse (24 tracks and a free DVD to boot), so like the D-Plan, Unsane found their way back to Creepy Crawl for one more round.

Local lads Hearts of Darkness like to drink; of this I have no doubt. They had their dancing shoes on and were ready for a Yo-Ho-Ho set of beer and whiskey rock ’n’ roll. Most people would classify them as a punk band—and they do have a very heavy punk influence in their tunes—but they’re really just a flat out fast, “here to kick your ass” rock band. Lead vocalist Jim Mulligan, dressed head to toe in black, swaggered through a set full of songs about drinking, drinking, and more drinking. Throughout the set, Hearts of Darkness laid on all the rock ’n’ roll clichés one could possibly think of. In one of the few non-booze related songs, “Cursed,” Mulligan bragged about the band being banned from clubs all across town. Whether that was accurate or not didn’t really matter. The folks up front bought into Mulligan like he was selling volcano insurance. People jumped up and down, fists were shook, a guy up front dropped to floor and flopped around like a Holy Roller, and the first song played on the PA after the set was “Ace of Spades.” I felt it quite fitting. I couldn’t tell if the Hearts of Darkness took their rock swagger that seriously or if they were playing the part a lá the Rye Coalition; I could only hope it was the latter.

The crowd quickly filled up front for the ACs. This was the band the crowd came to see and they did not disappoint. In town to support their Gearhead Records release Automatic, they had their patented rock ’n’ roll moves down to a T. Call them garage rock, rockabilly, surf-punk. They rocked, in that PBR, two shots of Jagermeister, elbow-in-the-kidneys sort of way; most Gearhead Records bands do. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for bands like the Turbo ACs and The Dragons. Their songs, are fast, simple, and over before they get derivative. I love the Smugglers and Man or Astroman, but I wouldn’t want to stand through 90 minutes of either band. I do not mean that as a knock, but simply an observation of the genre.

Unsane took their sweet ass time setting up. When they finally took stage, the familiar soundtrack montage from “Taxi Driver” that introduced the majority of their shows started to play over the speakers. Grinning like loons, Spencer and bassist Dave Curran started reciting Travis Bickle’s lines, which they both had heard literally a thousand times. Not to get sappy, but they grinned like two friends, enjoying the rush of playing together for probably one of the last times. Meanwhile, drummer Vincent Signorelli sat in a trance, staring ahead, abusing his drum kit like he was praying for rain. Then the wall of noise started and people cleared out of the Creepy Crawl like someone had dropped a canister of tear gas.

Chris Spencer yanked the microphone off its stand with his teeth; eyes bulging like a cornered wolf. Shirt off, Spencer bore a nasty scar from when a gang of Austrian punks nearly kicked him to death. Spencer has always been a fairly intense looking guy on and off stage, but the scar just added to the effect. The hour- long set was filled with standards like “Committed,” “Body Bomb,” “Empty Cartridge,” and “Scrape.” The show ended with tourmates the Turbo ACs joining them onstage for a loud, extended free jam.

NYC’s Unsane isn’t for everyone; they’ve never been. People either like it or they don’t. Noise rock is generally like that. Gauging how empty the Creepy Crawl was when Chris Spencer & Co were finished, I’d say the majority chose the latter; which is too bad because it’s probably the end of the line of for one of the finest noise rock bands around.

While Unsane may be done, it appears that Spencer and Curran have work with their newer outfits in the not-too-distant future. Curran said that J.J Paradise Players Club had just finished up their second LP the day before Unsane left on tour. As for the Cutthroats 9, look for them to be on tour with the JJPPC sometime next spring. Whether or not St. Louis will be on the itinerary remains to be seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment