Unwound, Fake Train
On their debut album, Tumwater, Washington, trio Unwound play broad emotional strokes, not notes. In that sense, Fake Train, produced by Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Beat Happening), isn't all that far from ideological and geographical neighbors Nirvana's own debut, Bleach. Both albums are a bit aimless, the bands fumbling for identities within Sonic Youth's considerable shadow. "Nervous Energy," a track remarkably reminiscent of both Sonic Youth and Kentucky post-hardcore stalwarts Slint and Rodan, constructs itself using sharp guitar prods, Sara Lund's tom-heavy rhythmic tumbles and singer/guitarist Justin Trosper's phlegmy shouts. Unfortunately, Fake Train feels unnecessarily long, as Unwound's inexperience allowed the album only one or two momentary lulls from the feedback, tempered screams and accelerating tempos. One of those, "Feeling$ Real," is the album's best cut, a clear predictor of the pensive aggression on 1994's New Plastic Ideas and 1998's Challenge for a Civilized Society. Closing the album after three straight hardcore stompers, the song ducks and covers from its own bombast in slow builds of reverb-swabbed guitars, Vern Rumsey's yearning bass and Trosper's disinterested mutterings. This arguably ranks as their worst album, but it's still a formidable, and promising, debut.