Review Summary: A fun and varied romp through folk-punk, ska, and trad-rock that proves to be worthwhile, if inconsistent at times.
Super groups usually suck in music. Frankly, most of them are filled with egotistical twats who are all competing for the limelight in a band full of egotistical twats competing for the limelight. However, Chicago’s underground punk scene has given birth to one of the least pretentious super groups around: The Falcon. Featuring members of the Lawrence Arms (guitarist/vocalist Brendan Kelly and drummer/lead guitarist (for this album at least) Neil Hennessey), Alkaline Trio (bassist/vocalist Dan Adriano), and an ex-member of Rise Against (guitarist Todd Mahoney, who is absent on this recording), the Falcon pride themselves on being merely a group of friends having a good time killing time. And on Unicornography
, the band’s eagerly awaited full-length debut, that is exactly what it sounds like. Unicornography
is merely the product of three friends having a good time and playing around with ideas that wouldn’t otherwise fit in with their main acts.
The main attraction to The Falcon is the variety exhibited by the band. “The Angry Cry of the Angry Pie”
starts off the album with a thrashy guitar riff over Kelly’s urgent and harsh vocal delivery before transitioning quickly into the jangly and upbeat ska-punk of “Blackout”
with its instantly memorable chorus of “Blackout, shout it out loud/The devil's keeping time on the brake pad now/It's the music on the radio that's taking me home” that will stay stuck in your head days after first hearing it. “The Longshoreman’s Lament”
is probably the most outwardly aggressive song on the album clocking in at less than 90 seconds and packing a swift punch with it’s shouted, misanthropic cries of anger. However, Unicornography
is more than just aggressive punk and upbeat ska; it also has a strong folk influence in many of the tracks, particularly “The La-Z-Boy 500”
which features a picked acoustic guitar solo as well as the typical backing “whoah’s”.
may seem like merely a one trick pony upon first listen with it’s varied and admittedly inconsistent sound, however it backs up this variety with excellent musicianship from every member of the group. Kelly and Hennessey (filled in for Mahoney who couldn’t attend the recording sessions) both play to their strengths as guitarists, offering up a mixed bag of treats for those listening. The previously-mentioned acoustic solo in “The La-Z-Boy 500”
is one of the most easily enjoyable riffs on the album. The album’s highlight “Unicorn Odyssey”
offers one of the most fun and noodly guitar lines on the whole album during the introduction, transitioning into one of the most upbeat songs on the whole album. Hennessey’s drumming is fairly standard, especially considering his powerful work in The Lawrence Arms, but holds together the band well and doesn’t ever detract from the music. However, Adriano’s bass lines are what really make the album something special. He consistently provides a great groove that the rest of the rhythm section builds on, even opening up “The Longshoreman’s Lament”
with a solid bass solo of sorts, something that is fairly uncommon in his other
is a love-or-hate affair. Brendan Kelly sounds no different from his usual performance in the Lawrence Arms. His voice is gruff and coarse, distorted over the course of several years by a steady diet of alcohol and nicotine. While his vocals could be quite unenjoyable to listeners not used to this harsh and urgent style, they compliment the music, and to a greater extent, the extremely cynical and snide lyrical content perfectly.
has plenty of flaws that hold it back from being truly excellent. Variety, which is its greatest strength, is also partly its greatest weakness; so much variety is exhibited that while there is assuredly something that you will like, there is a good chance there will be something that you really don’t like, or there will not be a substantial amount of enjoyable material, unless you are just a fan of wildly diverse music. Aside from the vocals and the inconsistency in sound, the album also suffers from being inconsistent in terms of songwriting quality. Where some songs such as “Unicorn Odyssey”
have simple but excellent lyrics, others such as “The La-Z-Boy 500”
have tremendous lyrical flops such as “Your Jesus ain’t gonna save you this time/Your precious savior is laughing”.
However, in the end, the good does outweigh the bad by a fairly substantial margin and Unicornography
ends up being a fun and mildly rewarding listen. Delving into folk-punk, ska, and straight-up riff-driven rock’n’roll, Unicornography
offers something for nearly everyone, although maybe not in large numbers.
Recommended Tracks: Unicorn Odyssey, Blackout, The Longshoreman’s Lament