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Album Review: Unnatural Helpers – Land Grab

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One of the seemingly minor secondary effects of the digitization of music is that, when streaming an album on a site like SoundCloud, you can see the waveform patterns of the music you’re listening to. Taking a look at the newest LP from Seattle rockers Unnatural Helpers, and its clear that these aren’t going to be cinematic build-and-release slow-burners. Those constant, bulky shapes stretched across your screen just scream punchy, emotive, straight-ahead rock, and Land Grab delivers exactly that.

In the past, the band’s rock ‘n roll chops were often credited to the fact that they had been comprised entirely of Sub Pop employees, though currently, only one frontman Dean Whitmore remains from the original lineup incarnation. Wherever these four musicians happen to be employed, its clear that they have run with the rock ‘n roll wolves and learned their secrets. And then, judging from “Hate Your Teachers”, they probably had to kick those wolves’ ass all Liam-Neeson-in-The-Grey style. As they say, “no matter how much you love them,” life demands that you “hate your teachers.”

The painful life lessons don’t end there, though. These songs run the gamut emotionally, from negative to a little less negative, and then all the way back to negative again. “We’ll never clean up this mess,” Whitmore scowls over ratcheted guitars and slyly upbeat harmonies. “Wife, daughter, mother, kill, death, disease,” Whitmore offers on “Devil is a Liar”, before the band kicks into a lockstep groove that won’t leave your head for days, everyone howling out in pain together. The strongest cut on the album, the angular fuzz of “Toil” builds on a vaguely depressed narrative about a man and his family’s troubles. “Close your eyes this song could last a lifetime/ close your eyes this song goes on and on,” Whitmore crows, the darkness creeping in without much hope of escape.

In true rock fashion, the 13 tracks on Land Grab just top the half hour mark. Riffs and hooks abound, and filler is a four-letter word (meaning its a curse word, not that hard rockers can’t spell (though with that anti-teacher rhetoric, you never know…)). The tracks scratch every raucous post-punk and garage itch you could have, but, perhaps by genre necessity, burn out rather quickly.

Essential Tracks: “Hate Your Teachers”, “Toil”

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