For years indie-rock bands have known that breaking up orderly pop songs with the chaos of noise is a good recipe for tension: early recordings by the Grifters floated maddeningly from fuzzed-out haze to sharp tunefulness and back again, and the debut from Apples in Stereo had a careening energy that threatened to trample the defenseless melodies at every turn. On Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (Alien8), Montreal's Unicorns--led by Nicholas Diamonds and Alden Ginger, both playing guitars, bass, a slew of keyboards, and a lot of the drums--generate plenty of that sort of tension, but it seems to be the result of a short attention span rather than a deliberate strategy. Even the poppiest songs feel like stream-of-consciousness excursions, as sections unknown in the verse-chorus-bridge universe pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as suddenly. Wheezing analog-synth lines egg the lead vocals on and flip them off at the same time, gentle guitar patterns bob in a sea of textural noodling, and ragged harmonies flicker between conviction and boredom. Del Rey headlines; Candyland Riots open: Saturday, January 17, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Pit Er Pat (see Spot Check) opens: Sunday, January 18, 7 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Edward Thorburn.