The word "experimental" is perhaps fast on its way to becoming the most abused musical descriptor since "edgy" or "hardcore." Face it, any schmo can slab on the term "experimental" to whatever approximation of "pop" or "rock" they feel like pulling off, even if the so-called avant nature of their proposed work is frustratingly lukewarm at best. Add a dude with a laptop to your band, and apparently your laminated license for the dubious world of "experimental" music is ready to be handed out to you post-haste.
With so many folks patting themselves on the back with such cred-padding labels, it's inevitable that certain bands who really are "experimental" within their idiom are going to get overlooked. And why? Because most musicians who really are worthy of this term are going to put more than a few onlookers, even those within the indie world, off. Untied States, for all their post-punk distinctions, are a group of lads (core duo Colin Arnstein and Skip Engelbrecht, plus bassist and drummer) who can wear "experimental" truthfully and proudly. Their derailed discordance verges on the maniacal, in a way possibly not seen since the criminally-underappreciated Fire Show (if you don't know them, seek them out now) turned the sagging post-punk movement's guts inside-out with glorious violence to inattentive spectators.
That's not to say that Untied States have worked all the kinks out of their mission just yet. For all the bits of synthetic dissonance that are emitting out of some very disturbed pedals and processors, there's still a somewhat unpleasant undercurrent of post-hardcore growing pains. Like The Paper Chase, Untied States similarly sometimes let their minor key freak-outs play off less like compellingly realized neurosis and more like an ex-emo kid having a self-imposed schizophrenic attack.
Still, of all the bands out there who are trying to make their name known for originality, Untied States are damn sure doing their hardest to push their sonic blundering to a peak of innovational eminence. "Can't Get Around It" is easily Retail Detail's peak of excitement, the drunk-jazz intro giving way to a bossa nova beat perhaps used at a wicked séance party. Likewise, Retail Detail's best moments are when the band ditch the guitar-splattered conniptions like "My Cause Is My Curse" and "Martyrs Have Nothing To Live For" for some outright feed-everything-to-the-id weirdness, such as the carnival-sludge nightmare of closer "It's Not Enough" or the stittery goth-funk of "It's Not Goodbye."
So while Untied States' effort Retail Detail may warrant only a 3.5 in the end, it's the very enthusiastic 3.5 that so few bands could possibly hope to receive. Untied States harbor such a giddy creative energy that some concoctions of theirs are bound to come out a bit half-baked or overbundled, but with every by-the-book gang of indie rockers (*cough*Tapes 'N' Tapes*cough*) using their high Pitchfork scores as some kind of proof of relevance without ever actually trying something unfounded, it is rather disheartening that some young miscreants as adventurous as Untied States will be left squalling and squirming on deaf ears. Too bad, because if Untied States can be encouraged, illuminating sonics are sure to follow.
1. It's Not Goodbye
2. Retell The Tale
3. Martyrs Have Nothing To Live For
4. You Own Your Own
5. 1 Mile Aisle
6. My Cause Is My Curse
7. We Don't Have To Climb
9. Retail Detail
10. Can't Get Around It
12. It's Not Enough