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CD Review: Unknown Instructors – The Way Things Work

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Unknown Instructors describe themselves as a punk-jazz-rock-experimental super group. Albeit accurate that the group crosses so many diverse categories, the result falls quite short of super. Individually there are some exceptional and interesting jazz melody lines, some intense rock guitar licks, and some deep cutting poetry for lyrics. However when they are all combined into one lump, the result isn’t really exceptional; in fact, it’s messy.

You notice I used the term poetry for lyrics and not poetic lyrics. The poetry is recited to the busy and cluttered music. Specifically, on the track “Punk (Is Whatever We Made It To Be)” The busy buzzing electronic keyboard overpowers the poetry to such an extent it’s difficult to hear, let alone understand them.

When you can hear it, the poetry is definitely modern, cutting edge dark and depressed. It’s not deep or metaphoric; it’s all laid out on the table, as if Dan McGuire (credited with Voice, Saxophone, and Lyrics) opened a vein and just bled the emotions all over the place. The music has that same poured out feeling, and with the combination of styling there is little coherence. I spent way too much time concentrating to pick out parts instead of enjoying the whole.

“Walk With Me” starts out with a nice mix of the poetry and the music, but within a minute the music elevates and the poetry fades and again you are struggling to even hear what is being said.

“An Evening in Hell,” is one track where it all seems to work, but I think that is because it is more simplistic. The music is Jazz, quite honestly, an impressive and complex jazz arrangement, and it is not clouded or forced into any other genre. The poetry is clear and concise, visibly heard. The tone is dark. All the pieces to the puzzle fit together, there isn’t a third, fourth or fifth piece that you feel is being shoved in even though it clearly doesn’t fit.

The concept behind the album was a good one, and I see a lot of potential in many of the tracks, but to me, it could have benefited from more refining and more post production work to balance the elements, and at times, stripping away of some of the extras would have improved the end product immensely.

The fifteen track disc was released on September 20, and the band was to head back into the recording studio in October to begin work on their second release.

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