Sunday, June 20, 2010
United Nations-United Nations
Bands like System of a Down and Green Day have always had trouble balancing protest, satire, and seriousness, often becoming a mockery of themselves in the process. And one can hardly blame them, as it's supremely difficult to create art that delivers a serious message while retaining a measure of tongue-in-cheek to assure the listener that its creators aren't taking themselves TOO seriously. United Nations, led by Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly, accomplishes that nebulous goal better than any other protest band I have heard.
The sound of United Nations has been referred to jokingly by the band as "emo power violence pop punk". And if by that the band means that they're also protesting genres, they do so with a vengeance. Multiple guitars pound out huge chord progressions and Rickly dictates call and response vocals with vicious screaming, presumably from Converge vocalist Ben Koller, although the band has kept its line-up secret, only appearing in public in a set of Ronald Reagan masks. This roaring cornucopia of sounds is best culminated in "The Shape of Punk That Never Came", which opens with a chaotic mess of those iconic guitars, furious drums, and the twin vocalists screaming/yelling lyrics that reflect and parody The Refused. The song's powerful and somehow majestic climax bleeds off into a pleasantly melodic outro, with Geoff Rickly using his Thursday voice to croon the song to a finish. It's a wonderfully ugly, exhileratingly beautiful example of everything the band is great at, from their sense of self-assurance, their overstated element of tongue-in-cheek, and the feeling that although they're not taking themselves seriously, they're deadly serious about the subject matter, in this case the downfall of music.
More than anything, United Nations' 25-minute album is just downright entertaining. It's more head-bangable in its catchiest moments even than a similarly accessible post-hardcore band like Underoath, and because of its short run time, it's literally screaming to be listened to over and over again. Most importantly, United Nations have balanced parody and protest in a fun, listenable, and relatively mainstream fashion, while at the same time being brash, edgy, and highly influenced. The only downside is that this punk supergroup seems unlikely to make any more material in the future; if that's true, then this will remain one of the most furiously addicting one-off projects of all time.
Listen: The Shape of Punk That Never Came