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Stuff You Might’ve Missed – Unsane

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Listening to these noise-rockers is like getting hit by a semi, kicked in the teeth, and thrown down three flights of stairs all at once. – All Music Guide

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Associated Entries: Boss Hog, Cutthroats 9, Foetus, Lubricated Goat, Swans

Along with Helmet,  Unsane represent the sound most closely associated withAmphetamine Reptile –  they combine jackhammer rhythms, breakneck tempos and macabre record covers. In 1995, the band scored a surprising hit with “Scrape”, a video for which received plenty of rotation on MTV.

This Town - 1989
This Town - 1989

Unsane were formed in the late 80s by Chris Spencer, Pete Shore and Charlie Ondras, who met as students at Sarah Lawrence College. Their debut album called “Improvised Munitions” was supposed to come out in 1988 on Circuit Records, but label owner never released it due to his cocaine habits. They debuted with This Town 7″ in 1989 instead.

By the early 90s, they became part of the group of like-minded bands – the likes of Pussy Galore, Cop Shoot Cop, Surgery, Helmet and Reverb Motherfuckers, who all shared the stage with them.

Their self-titled full-length came out in 1991 and it featured a photo of decapitated man lying on the subway track as a record cover. Gruesome record covers would eventually become one of their trademarks. At the time band members were also in Action Swingers (Pete Shore) and Boss Hog (Charlie Ondras).

All Music Guide pointed out that “Unsane contains none of the pose and posture many New York acts have traditionally been known for, in fact, far from it. This album is an unflinching glance into a type of life others probably should not lead. A brilliant and daring debut.”

Charlie Ondras passed away from drug overdose in 1992 and was replaced with Vinnie Signorelli (Foetus, Swans) and bassist Pete Shore was replaced with Dave Curran.

Total Destruction - 1993
Total Destruction - 1993

They 1993 release “Total Destruction” came out on Atlantic Records and became their only major label release. 1995 follow-up called “Scattered, Smothered and Covered” featured a single “Scrape”, which became their most recognized song.

All Music Guide commented on “Scattered, Smothered & Covered” – “Named after a dish at American roadside restaurant Waffle House, Unsane’s third full-length stripped down and sharpened the band’s signature minor-key noise attack, utilizing decidedly more rock 4/4 rhythms. What emerges is a collection of songs that, although as aggressive and drill press-pummeling as anything else in the band’s oeuvre, benefits from the breathing space afforded by Vinny Signorelli’s heavy one-two kick-snare punch”.

After 1998 “Occupational Hazard”, they decided to take a break, primarily in part to the fact that Chris Spencer was attacked by thugs while the band was on tour in Vienna, Austria. He recovered and moved on to California, where he formed Cutthroats 9 with Dave Curran. Curran also started another band called J.J. Paradise Players Club and Dave Signorelli opened a tatoo shop in Brooklyn.

Blood Run - 2005
Blood Run - 2005

Upon Chris Spencer return to New York, the band released greatest hits compilation called “Lambhouse”, followed by new record called “Blood Run” in 2003. Mike Patton label Ipecac Recordings released their 2007 album “Visqueen”.

AMG pointed out that “Blood Run welcomes listeners back into Unsane’s dingy, oppressive, and overcast soundtrack to urban decay — a frightening place where every word uttered is a ragged scream, guitars clang against drums like hammers upon anvils, and unnerving shards of melody echo from standout tracks like “Backslide,” “Killing Time,” and “Latch” (all delivered with the nails-on-chalkboard shrillness of a New York City ambulance siren).”

Drummer Vinnie Signorelli is also in a new band called A Storm Of Light which also features members of Neurosis, Asea and Tombs and Satanized. They toured with Neurosis in 2008 and released “And We Wept the Black Ocean Within” album this year.

Fun Facts:

– They first show was an opening act for Reverb Motherfuckers

– They opened for Slayer in the late 90s

– Their song “Committed” was featured in a soundtrack for video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

– “While developing the blueprint for noise-metal bands to follow, Unsane cut a remarkable swath through underground music, inspiring a devoted, cult-like following around the globe” (writer Patrick Kennedy on Unsane)

– Early on they used the NYC prefix in order to differentiate them from metal band of the same name

–  Jack Natz from Cop Shoot Cop makes an appearance in their video for a song “Body Bomb”

Band Members:

Charlie Ondras (1965-1992) (Boss Hog)

Chris Spencer (Cutthroats 9)

Dave Curran (Cutthroats 9, J.J. Paradise Players Club)

Pete Shore (Action Swingers)

Vinnie Signorelli (A Storm Of Light, Blood And Time, Foetus In Excelsis Corruptus Deluxe, Foetus Symphony Orchestra, Lubricated Goat, Of Cabbages And Kings, Swans)

Discography:

This Town / Urge To Kill 7″ (Treehouse, 1989)

Concrete Bed / El Mundo 7″ (Glitterhouse, 1990)

Vandal-X / Streetsweeper 7″ (Sub Pop, 1990)

Unsane LP / CD (Matador, 1991 / City Slang, 1991)

Jungle Music / Bloody Boy / My Right 7″ (PCP Entertainment, 1991)

Split With Slug 7″ (PCP Entertainment, 1992)

Singles 89-92 CD ()Matador, 1992 / City Slang, 1992)

Peel Sessions CD-EP (1993)

Body Bomb 7″ (1994)

Total Destruction LP / CD  (City Slang, 1993 / Matador + Atlantic, 1994)

Scattered, Smothered And Covered CD (1995)

Attack In Japan (1995)

Split With Feedtime 7″ (1996)

Split With Copass Grinderz 7″ (1996)

Sick / No Soul 7″ (Man’s Ruin, 1996)

AmRep Christmas CD (Man’s Ruin, 1997)

Committed / Over Me 7″ (Galaxia, 1998)

Occupational Hazard LP / CD (Relapse, 1998 / Runt, 1998 / Rebel Rec, 1998)

Split With Hint 7″ (1998)

This Plan 7″ (2001)

Lambhouse CD + DVD (Relapse, 2003)

Blood Run CD (Relapse, 2003)

Visqueen (Ipecac, 2007)

Compilation Tracks:

This Town” on Crunchouse (Glitterhouse, 1989)

Burn” on Scumbait #1 (Treehouse, 1989)

Broke” on Dope, Guns And Fucking In The Streets Volumes 4-7 (Amphetamine Reptile, 1990)

Four Sticks” on Engangered Species (Glitterhouse, 1990)

Boost” on New York Eye And Ear Control (Matador, 1990)

Exterminator” on Slanged! (City Slang, 1991)

Bath” on Mesomorph Enduros (Big Cat UK, 1992)

Blew” on Jabberjaw Compilation – Good To The Last Drop (Mammoth, 1994)

Blew” on Introducing Vol.2 (Indigo, 1995)

Blew” on Niveau Music – Nimm Mich! (SPV Recordings, 1995)

Scrape” on Mind The Gap Vol.6 (Gonzo Circus Magazine, 1996)

4-Tak” on Carbon Magazine compilation Vol.14 (1997)

Vandal X” on What’s Up Matador (Matador, 1997)

Scam” on Contamination MCMXCV||| (Relapse, 1998)

Wait To Lose” on Mind The Gap Vol.19 (Gonzo Circus Magazine, 1998)


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