pop unknown: if arsenic fails, try algebra
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Burke Nagy

It’s getting tougher and tougher to rock out these days, mainly because it’s getting tougher and tougher to figure out what it means to rock. It seems as though the dominant paradigms of rock music continue to become subverted by both the cookie-cutter permutations of the corporate machine and the multimorphous, sonic swarm of less “fortunate,” though often more authentic, rock bands.

These latter ones are often lumped collectively under the moniker ‘indie rock,’ though the boundaries of what counts as ‘rock’ seem to have been blurred to include any kind of prima-guitara music with a backbeat. Contrast this phenomenon with the proliferation of ad hoc labels for the diverse species of today’s rock bands: alternative, lo-fi, acid rock, emocore, garage, postpunk and power pop, to name a few.

Emergent rock bands these days thus find themselves swimming in a torrent sea of predicative confusion, faced with the challenge of creating truly original music that can both dig itself out of a pigeon hole and still lay claim to the rock. The latest, and first full-length, album from pop unknown, if arsenic fails, try algebra, does well to meet this challenge head-on.

It would be too easy to classify pop unknown as just another emo band, since to do so would be to overlook the subtleties of its project. It doesn’t help, of course, that pop unknown is signed to deep elm records, which is responsible, in part, for the cultivation of other bands heading in a similar direction: appleseed cast, cross my heart, camber, and planes mistaken for stars, for example.

But pop unknown, while indeed hovering in the emo category, at the same time launches itself into an unexplored, indeed unknown, cosmic musical space. Witness, for example, the mesmerizing guitar swirls and breakin drumbeat of “tattoo your image (on the world),” the ethereal soundscapes of “an offering,” and the dynamic lunar module ride of “last to know.”

The sound that pop unknown has defined on this album is built around the dual guitar modes of slow chugs and overlaying harmonic patterns, palpitating rhythms and tempered vocals that ride on a rolling, mid-ocean wave. The sound is all at once a reversion to the more ambient and substantive moods of new wave, an encompassment of the rock drive and a progression towards an autonomous, synthetic blend of these, and other, conversant elements.

Much of pop unknown’s fortitude can be attributed to its members’ tried and true histories as veterans of the Austin, Texas independent music scene. They come extradited from such bands as mineral (a highly seminal early emo band), imbroco and feed lucy.

The lyrics concocted by vocalist/guitarist Tim Lasater betray a pensive cynicism and stout honesty gained through what might have been a period of tortuous self-reflection. “It’s so funny how my whole world is made up for you,” he quips in “lonely here with me.”

pop unknown is one of those bands that reminds the listener of the transcendent powers of rock. What’s more, by taking this transcendent power in a new direction, pop unknown is taking part in conducting a definitive progress of the art form. If if arseinc fails fails its own mission for

aesthetic development, then the chance of finding similar growth in this sort of rock outcropping looks bleak. We might as well attempt tediously to find an algebraic formula for the rock identity and forget about the numinous aspects of rock, entirely.

If you’re interested in more information, take a look at http://members.tripod.com/~pop_unknown/index.html and http://www.deepelm.com.

About - Founded over 100 years ago we are the shared newspaper of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. From campus happenings to global news, we've got you covered.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>