Henry Cow
Unrest


5.0
classic

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
July 26th, 2010 | 43 replies


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist


Like all great "experimental" music, Henry Cow's Unrest consistently progresses through unexpected levels of musicianship and creativity but never gets lost in its own mire. It's one of those albums that'll start off a track with a jazz ballad, then take five or so minutes to transform it into some sort of warped rock tune (think '60s and '70s rock music, deconstructed then thrown together so the pieces don't quite fit snugly) then, by the end, will make you wonder not only where you are but also how you got there. For an album that takes so much pride in its own Storm and Stress, however, Unrest is also compulsively listenable--this is recognizably rock music (although the unconventional alto sax, clarinet, bassoon and oboe that occasionally make their presence are a delight), though its complex (and totally kick-ass) drums and dissonant chordal structures seem to imply that the members of this band, if nothing else, liked listening to multiple records at one time.

Though the end result is certainly more musical, Unrest indeed, at times, sounds like not just one but a group of songs put in the same room together, trying desperately to escape. Rhythms and harmonies clash, seemingly mismatched passages are stacked upon each other, tape loops collapse into the abyss while a steady, polyrhythmic drumbeat watches. Yes, this is music that requires me to describe it in terms of motion, simply because it is so full of it. The album takes recognizable "music" (free jazz solos, vocal chants, sloppily precise drum breaks, bleeps and bloops) from different sources and uses it to thrust *** forward--this is progressive rock in the purest sense.

Overall, Unrest is a hidden gem, one that transcends and earns all its grating moments because they're all in service of bizarrely beautiful ones. Even for those who (somewhat rightly) scoff at this "next-level" prog music, the band is, at the very least, never boring--even their slow moments have endless things going on and are as equally as unpredictable as their more spastic workouts. Though it may be tough to crack at first, Unrest is some of the most uncompromisingly inventive music out there, and, more than thirty years later, it hasn't lost one bit of its astounding touch.



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user ratings (36)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


i literally wrote this in five minutes and didnt check over it--too tired

but had to get it done

GET THIS ALBUM (if you think youll like it)

also way better than captain beefheart

Bitchfork
July 26th 2010


7584 Comments


Arguably this is your best review, tbh.
Spend less time writing, because you seemingly overthink.

Spare
July 26th 2010


5306 Comments


oh look another robertsona 5/5 i'm gonna have to get

Digging: Best Witches - Wishes

joshuatree
Emeritus
July 26th 2010


3742 Comments


review makes this sound like starsailor, might get

Bitchfork
July 26th 2010


7584 Comments


To me the review makes it sounds like a less abrasive Bungle

joshuatree
Emeritus
July 26th 2010


3742 Comments


also fucking italics

Spare
July 26th 2010


5306 Comments


yeah seriously

Lakes.
July 26th 2010


27730 Comments


you really have a lot of 5 reviews

Digging: Arthur Russell - World of Echo

Bitchfork
July 26th 2010


7584 Comments


I like the italics, personally, it prevents him from being verbose, you know, since it's being reiterated as he's saying it.

Enotron
July 26th 2010


7695 Comments


his last name is cow, therefore I will not read the review nor will I listen to the album

Romulus
July 26th 2010


8434 Comments


Dude cows are like the best animals!

Also this sounds cool I'll try to get around to listening to it

Enotron
July 26th 2010


7695 Comments


kind of surprised you didn't make a reference to loveless in the first paragraph

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


huh wat

Meatplow
July 26th 2010


5524 Comments


Henry Cow is the name of the band

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


cutler totally fucking rocks his kit on the second track love it so much

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


edit: double post

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


aight playa

Enotron
July 26th 2010


7695 Comments


in a couple of your five reviews, you tend to namedrop loveless. twas what I was implying

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2010


15035 Comments


oh uh




okay

Enotron
July 26th 2010


7695 Comments


there isn't really any need to throw in an "uh".

btw when did you first actually hear this album?



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