Band Name: The Unbearables
Album Name: Just One Bite: Selections from “Bitten!: a Zombie Rock Odyssey”
Best Element: Stunning songwriting and arrangements
Genre: Power-pop/rock/total awesomeness
Label Name: Stem and Leaf Records
Band E-mail: www.myspace.com/theunbearables
Everyone has influences. Some people have influences that are obvious. The Unbearables have so many obvious influences packed into one album that the obviousness of the influences is completely irrevelant in context of the greater package. I mean, really – does it really matter if there’s a little too much Weezer influence on an album that is named Just One Bite: Selections from “Bitten!: a Zombie Rock Odyssey”?
Yes, you read that correctly. This CD is a concept album about zombies. But wait, there’s more! These songs are only selections of a greater amount of songs that comprised an entire stage show. That’s right. The Unbearables sat down and wrote a rock musical about a zombie invasion.
Not only did they write a musical about zombies, they outfitted the arrangements with much more than your normal rock ensemble. From the Zombie Girls Choir (which makes several astounding good – and astoundingly amusing – contributions to the album) to jubilant trumpet and trombone parts to spacey synths to tambourines, flugelhorns, farfisa and much more, this album is chock-full of intelligent arrangements that bring to mind more of a Sufjan Stevens style than pompous and kitschy musical theatre arrangements.
The high-mindedness of their endeavors would fall flat on its face, however, if it weren’t for the immense talent that the Unbearables bring to the table in the guitar/bass/drums arena. Like I said, there is a little bit too much Weezer influence in the fact that the guitars sound more like dinosaurs stomping through the world than zombies overtaking it, but the precision with which the drums and bass back up the domineering guitar lines is what takes the good songwriting and turns it into stellar songwriting.
Take, for example, the centerpiece of the album “Zombies, Unite!” It starts off with that lovable Zombie Girls Chorus jubilantly exclaiming in three-part harmony “People! People! We’re gonna eat ‘em!” before the gargantuan guitars blast off in 5/4 time. Yes, 5/4 time. No one even writes rock in 5/4, much less the centerpiece of a concept album. And yet, they were not content to have that brilliant oddity stand on its own. After a victorious, uplifting, entirely ironic guitar solo, the chorus emerges once again, reveling in Sufjan Stevens-esque rhythms and proving that they’ve been listening to way too much Illinois.
But it doesn’t stop there. No, this epic is definitely almost 7 minutes long. As all good musicians will note, any 7-minute epic requires a drastic mood shift or two, and this one does follow the rules of rock. The first shift chronicles the lead character of the musical wondering if his newly zombie-fied friends are sick, and the confusion is evident in the spacious, gap-filled music. The zombie choir is brought back to usher in the second shift, in which a dreamy section is introduced and fleshed out (har har) in an extremely satisfying fashion that fades into a native flute. I love it.
That’s only one song. And that’s only part of the brilliance that is the Unbearables. They keep up their frustratingly catchy antics for almost an hour, blowing me away with female-led pieces, instrumentals, grungy songs, balladry, and anything else you can think of to throw in.
I say frustratingly catchy on purpose. It’s awkward to walk around humming “People! People! We’re gonna eat ‘em!”, but that’s what’s required after hearing the album. Thankfully, your amusement at the song will cancel out the awkward looks.
If that all wasn’t enough, consider this: The Unbearables actually produced this stage show with the help of a local theatre troupe. I would pay a ridiculous sum to see this production (it’s all over till the revival), and once you hear this power-pop gem, you would too. If you have, at any point in your life, ever enjoyed a good catchy song, the Unbearables are an extremely necessary part of your CD collection. I am not kidding.