Review Summary: Stellar instrumentation and excellent vocals cement Coping with the Urban Coyote as Unida's crowning achievement.
John Garcia. What can I say? I would trust the bastard as far as I could throw him. In the wake of the Kyuss media circus and lawsuit, Garcia(and Bjork) walked away with nothing and succeeded only in dragging the Kyuss name through the mud. However his work on the Kyuss, Slo-Burn and Unida records are what made him one of the most revered vocalists in the desert rock scene and beyond. While his character isn’t much to speak of, I will say this: when the man is good, he’s good. Following the breakup of the legendary desert rock band, Kyuss, he formed the short lived Slo-Burn and after that, Unida, where he would put out one of his best records.
On the band’s first LP, Unida bring the goods, differentiating Coping with the Urban Coyote from Garcia’s previous work but not running from it completely. The album is a hard hitting rock record packed with crushing guitar riffs, bombastic drums, thundering and aggressive vocals, and omnipresent, vibrant and focused bass work which, if I may add, carries much of the album from the get go. Lyrically, the album’s themes range from drug abuse destroying your mind to relationship issues. There isn't anything particularly profound, but all the while fun, ominous and vague. The album opens with bass heavy "Thorn" which serves as an adequate album opener but leaves you hungry for something a little stronger. The band blasts through "Black Woman", a fast paced and energetic number that begs to be blasted from your car stereo as you speed down the interstate in the wrong direction. Following the action, "Plastic" romps into the scene, letting the band groove with a sexy, crunchy riff that revels in its own distortion soaked sound. "Plastic" is definitely one of the stronger tracks on the first half of the album, demonstrating that the band can take a minute to stop and groove. Garcia’s vocals fit especially well on these types of mid tempo tracks and exude an infinitely confident swagger. Lyrics like “Well I was born/ I woke up in a hurricane/too many lights come through than what I'm really used to”, set the tone of the album; an exhilarating, sludgy roller coaster ride in an amusement park built of the sexiest sounds you can imagine.
The albums second half is stellar and where the band shines the brightest on all fronts. An excellent bass riff creeps into the air during the opening of "If Only Two" and the rest of the band follows suit, roaring to life and embracing a sludgy riff. Garcia rises to the forefront of the chaotic sonic fusion, shouting just to be heard at all. It would seem that this was the track the band wanted to make the whole time. The guitars fill and shake the air, the bass hums like a mean engine, the drums being bashed into oblivion, and Garcia screaming like a madman. It’s a no holds barred sonic assault. Unfortunately no track afterwards matches the ferocity and intensity of "If Only Two", but that’s not to say they don’t come near in quality. The intense, cymbal heavy, "Nervous" carries the run off aggression in a loose but mighty slow jam that that turns heads and mashes them into the ground. "Dwarf It" runs past as the penultimate track; blink and you miss it. It’s a quick little number that has the band dashing through with some solid drum work and quick guitars. The album closes out with the stellar and doomy "You Wish". The ominous bass riff that carries this slow track perfectly complements Garcia’s softer vocals and dark lyrics. “Nothing, is gonna survive/and her thing, always alive/Despite on the edge/well it’ll make you cry/.” The instruments are seemingly left to their own devices at times but all play off each other and fade off like a passing storm at the tracks conclusion, marking and creating a fitting end for the record.
Unida’s short lived run bore a split EP with Dozer and two albums, one of which was never officially released. Garcia’s work on these records remain testaments to his ability as a more than capable front man who could hold his own in a post-Kyuss career. As much as I, or anyone, may dislike him, his influence and legacy cannot be denied. Unida has once again become active and are set to release a new album sometime in the future. One can only hope that Garcia will retain or at least emulate this level of quality in his bands next outing.