Considering that Chris Spencer (Unsane/The Cutthroats 9/Celan) and Steve Austin (Today Is the Day) are two of my favorite guitars of all time, it should be no surprise the elation I felt when I heard that these two monster gods of heavy, crushing noise guitar would team up. Jeezus that was two years ago when I initially announced it on this here very site. The rest of the band includes Pat Kennedy, who played with Austin in Taipan, on bass and Aarne Victorne on drums.
UXO – Reptilian (2016)
Steve Austin actually stayed at my mom’s house a few months ago after Today Is the Day played at the Pike Room in Pontiac, MI. I told him that, as long as he holds Republican views, he’s more than welcome there. I gotta say, it was pretty surreal seeing this 6 ft plus man with a confederate flag plus snake tattooed on his arm talking to my 4’11” Jewish mother.
Anyway, UXO stands for Unexploded Ordnance, which are explosives that weren’t used, but still pose a threat of detonation.
The self titled debut LP/EP from UXO contains seven cuts and not one of them is a dud. If you’re familiar with either Today Is the Day or Unsane, you should probably know what to expect from this record; brutal, heavy, noisy and consistently pissed off throughout. But what really makes the record a winner is how Austin and Spencer play off each other. On every track you can hear Austin’s whirling, swirling Fripp-style melodies and weird noises play off of Spencer’s low end riffs, while both gentlemen take turns shouting over the din; or in the case of “Redlegs”, shouting together. Spencer throws in his bluesy, bottleneck slides as well.
As for vocals, Chris Spencer sounds like he always does, just angrily shouting at the top of his lungs, while Austin sings in his mocking, demonic tone, except for the track, “Blind Suicide”, where he sounds remarkably like Steve Albini. And lyrically, the songs are all thoroughly dark and depressing as titles like “Bitter”, “Trauma” and “User” would indicate.
It should also be noted that the song structures are closer to that of Unsane. So, if you’re wondering how or if Steve Austin incorporated those excessively complicated song structures that you’d hear on Today Is the Day classics like Supernova or Willpower, he didn’t. The songs are closer to the simpler Unsane approach, but sludgier, plodding along to angular, non-4/4 drum beats. Also, “Everything’s a Mistake” has a beeping noise in the background that sounds like an alarm clock going off.
Only two months into 2016 and UXO is easily a contender for one of the best records of year. I just wish it was longer.