Monday, August 18, 2014

United Nations at the Smiling Moose - Concert Review - August 14, 2014

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."


As Geoff Rickly grows up with his fanbase, his Warped Tour fatigue becomes more and more apparent. In many ways, United Nations is a reactionary project to his prolific run with Thursday. He’s described it as an outlet to release aggression, but in many ways, it’s a more relaxed project than we’re used to. Powered by Rickly’s bracing screamo-black metal vocals and propulsive blast beats, United Nations sounds as urgent and dead-serious as Deafheaven (Rickly refers to the band as his “little brothers”, since Kerry McCoy has cited him as a formative influence), but from a lyrical standpoint, his tongue is planted firmly in cheek.

On Thursday night at The Smiling Moose, Rickly displayed that fatigue right from the start, asking fans to “come closer, squeeze on up here. There won’t be any moshing or stage dives tonight.” The band’s second LP, The Next Four Years, would suggest a frenzy of a live environment, but Rickly wanted to keep things a little more tame – much like Michael Gira did in Pittsburgh a month earlier.

The band mostly stuck to The Next Four Years, but seemed just as committed to their “banned” self-titled debut. Although “Serious Business” is anything but, Rickly also provided amusing contexts to the older songs like “Model UN” and “Resolution 9,” which he gave a hilarious farcical backstory about the evils of The Beatles and their “British Invasion”. It not only matched up nicely with the “Yellow Submarine” refrain at the end of “Revolution 9”, but also the Fab Four-inspired tees on sale at the merch table.

Much like Rickly’s “little brothers”, United Nations blend genres in a refreshing enough way to make for an engaging live show. Their brand of not-quite hardcore, not-quite screamo, not-quite punk wholeheartedly favors intensity over conforming to any one category. Rickly noted that the addition of David Haik and Zac Sewell of Pianos Become the Teeth to the touring lineup has been a big one, and he couldn’t be more accurate. Haik keeps frantic time on the drums, and the rest of the band follows in lockstep.

But at its core, United Nations is Rickly’s showcase as a frontman. He wields the mic with a similar earnestness and controlled energy as Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves. On “Meanwhile on Main Street”, Rickly suddenly shifted back and forth between a spoken, through-the-megaphone cadence and his wall-shaking screams. Though a United Nations song might feature more overtly political and humorous lyrics than a Perfect Pussy song, both bandleaders exert the sensation of total commitment in a live setting.

-- Shawn Cooke