What probably started off as a great way to burn out some raging aggression has turned into something of an institution. For many, the original attraction to Unwound was the weaving bass lines, heavy-hitting drums and the exasperating guitar outbursts that melded hardcore and punk at a time when that particular genre had gone out of favor. As the '90s progressed, so did Unwound's sound. The band has never given up its underlying tenet of baffling the listener with oddly structured tunes and ear-splitting intensity, but it has indeed slowed things down, focusing more on what each chord and note can do rather than how quickly they can burrow through your ears.
The first band to sign to Kill Rock Stars, Unwound now celebrates its tenth anniversary with the release of Leaves Turn Inside You. This fourteen-song affair remains rooted in the impulsive volatility that is Unwound, but goes about lighting the fuse in a much more temperate and scrupulous way. The opening number, "We Invent You", fuses dramatic vocals with stabbing guitar lines, creating a evocative piece that reflects upon the album's dreary and melancholy title. It's a bit disconcerting listening to these dark, pensive numbers during the Spring, given the liveliness that typically comes with the season. Unwound effectively casts a shroud of waywardness upon its listeners, as other tracks, like "October All Over" and the gargantuan veneration of apathy "Who Cares", rain dread-laced noise and feedback down upon you. And while many of these tunes seem on the surface to be morose, the amazing clarity of the music ignites a feeling of hope. Unwound is still the torch-bearer for many DIY types, and this brilliant release will help you during times of philosophical introspection -- as well as when you're ready to be drowned in an aural bath of squeaky-clean sound.
With guest appearances by Brandt Sandeno and Janet Weiss, Unwound's reverberations progress to a new level of maturity that's not immediately accessible to fans of the bandís earlier work. There's a definite balance between gracefulness and spontaneity that's carefully controlled here. You're never quite sure if the scales will tip in favor of one or the other, but in the end, Unwound manages to escape unharmed, their prize a powerful masterpiece of an album. However, an open-minded listen will unearth the familiar elements of Unwound, entrenched in new song forms, igniting a passion and craving that -- if you own even one Unwound release -- will seem very familiar.