There was a time when 'Post-Rock' meant something. Back in 1994, when the term was coined by Simon Reynolds in an article in the The Wire, a new wave of bands were emerging, Tortoise among them, who exploded rock's familiar structures and built something shiny and new from the ruins. Looking back on Tortoise's self-titled debut album, it's a genuinely fantastic record, as full of melody as it is with experimental intent.
Since 1994, however, the term 'Post-Rock' has been bastardised. Where once it was the by-word by genuine innovation, it's now become a characteristic genre in of itself, ironic considering it's original boundary-smashing agenda. The host of Tortoise/Slint copyists who have emerged since the early 1990's have brought little new, serving only to entrench Post-Rock in a mire of spidery guitar instrumentals, with little to say and even less to add to Post-Rock's original blueprint.
It's hard not to identify Unwed Sailor as a symptom of this stultification; this album contains all the jolting rhythms, serpentine bass lines and cutesy guitar riffs we've come to expect from the Post-Rock underground. This is instantly forgettable stuff, and it strays very little from work already laid down by bands as disparate as June of 44, Don Caballero, Low and Mogwai to Tristeza, Tortoise and Tarentel.
That's not to say it's not worth a listen; album opener 'Last Goodbyes' has a wonderful, hook laden melodic base, albeit one that wouldn't sound out of place on a US teen soap. Elsewhere, the predictable, cyclical guitar riffs occasionally morph into intriguing John Fahey-inspired mantras, while the rhythm section provides a sturdy, propulsive foundation for the rest of the band to noodle on.
The brilliance of recent album releases by the likes of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, State River Widening and Rothko show that the guitar-based Post-Rock underground still has potential but, compared to the thriving, creatively virile avant-electronica scene, Unwed Sailor's pleasant instrumentals are already half buried.
5Tom Eyers's Score