Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Unknown: The Unknown LP

I describe a lot of bands that I post about as "unknown". It's a decent descriptor - many bands are heretofore completely unknown outside of the artists who recorded them and a few friends and collectors. Well, this band from Baltimore is literally unknown - as in The Unknown.
This record is more or less un-googleable since it's by a band called The Unknown, and the album is selftitled. Even their German namesakes are much easier to find online! This post is a joint post with Systems of Romance - this is their debut, and their excellent follow-up album can be found right over here.
I came across this album on a recent trip to that ultimate vacation paradise... Baltimore. The record looked interesting, and the 5 seconds I got to hear in the store was enough for me to buy it. The first time I listened to it in its entirety I was wholly impressed. Tracks on the album sound similar to For Against, Unforgettable Fire-era U2, Sport of Kings, Grapes of Wrath, and other similar melancholy guitar-based post punk bands. Even the weaker songs are only weak relative to the strength of the others, and it was initially hard to choose a favorite song. The record starts off with Eternity, a surf-post-punk sound reminiscent of Abecedarians; The Clock, with its dissonant guitar screeches is certainly impressive, and when the band explodes during the chorus I can imaging it must have been excellent to see live. But the closing track, Songinsee, somehow manages to span 6 minutes and still feel too brief, and it's the one that I found myself listening to on repeat. With several layers of shimmering guitars and lyrics about longing and loneliness, it's pretty much a perfect solemn pop song.
I'm uncertain how it escaped the ears of producers and record company execs and propel the band to stardom. It was 1987, so perhaps they thought The Unknown's sound was dated - it's certainly not as hip as mountains of teased hair, spandex, and novelty songs about cherry pie and girls, girls, girls who're smoking in the boy's room. But hopefully this post will give the song, and the album as a whole, a tiny bit of the recognition it deserves.

The Unknown: The Unknown LP
1987, Fetal Records

A1 Eternity
A2 I Wonder Why
A3 Perfect Ground
A4 The Clock
B1 Dear Mrs. Jones
B2 Slow Song
B3 Salvation
B4 Songinsee

Click here to listen!

1 comment:

Peter Jonas said...

Thanks for the generous reviews and shout-outs. I was the drummer of The Unknown; we were two sets of brothers who lived door to each other in Ellicott City, MD. I could give you more back-story, if you're interested, but I wanted to thank you for posting these. Hope all is well. I noticed you said you played the Ottobar. I assume you're in a band. Let me know if and when you play again.
--Peter Ramos