Lungfish – Unanimous Hour Reissue

Unanimous Hour
Dischord Records

If it comes as any surprise to you at this point, that I am now, and have always been a Lungfish worshiper, then clearly you are not one of those people who has followed me from blog to blog as I spread the gospel anytime said band, or any of their members does anything. This is a mistake on your part. As our time on this planet slowly passes around the sun, hurling in the spiral of a galaxy the rockets through the universe, the legend of Lungfish grows, the devotees numbers increase, and thus the religious experience deepens. Lungfish are not one of those bands that would cash in on this new-found audience or attempt to relive past glories. Nor are they interested in explaining the mystique or mystery. Like their Down City brethren in Fugazi, the Baltimore quartet is content to exist in the riddle. Will they or won’t they isn’t so much the question, for their body of work speaks in tongues unlike any heard before them. It is the majestic that propels the legend forward.

It helps that Dischord records is in a state of true archiving now. The mission of the label was always to capture a scene and a moment and as the founders find themselves actually fathering children and shifting from the present scene to the legacy they were a part of, attention is being paid to the back catalog and the archives left by giants. Last year the label reissued Pass and Stow, an album that sat squarely at the epicenter of the Lungfish output in what is thought to be the reissue of the entire catalog. It was met with gratitude by fans of the band. Most of us devour the bands entire 11 album catalog, but the added attention to the details sometimes buried by inadequate technology created a more lush and burning Lungfish then we had ever heard before.

The trend continues now with the reissue of Unanimous Hour. Here, we find a Lungfish at the top of their game and at their most experimental. Preceded by the stark Artificial Horizons,  an album that was so saturated in heavy guitar and repetition, Lungfish challenge the notions that they are a one trick pony on Unanimous Hour. Sure, you get the drone heavy trudgers here like “Mated” or album opener “Space Orgy”. But here, on Unanimous Hour, Lungfish once again turn the dial and show you something completely new.

The reverberating “God’s Will”, which includes Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye doing one of his best vocal performances, is a repetitious ballad to a higher power. This of course is the first hint at Higgs’s devotion to something greater that the public is just recently beginning to get more insight into. The song is soft and delicate and radiates out with a swirling guitar note that seems to burst and bloom from the center of the song. On “Metatron” the band mostly drops out for a near A cappella performance by singer and lyricist Daniel Higgs. This is a spooky, nearly neo-folk performance accompanied more by sound scape than actual song, though a simple acoustic guitar can be found nearly buried in the background.

The real treat of this album, and one that is done kindly by the new remixing and remastering treatment is epic album closer “Hallucinatorium”. This 7:52 second ditty swings along quiet and slowly like a brutal lullaby, the band seemingly tempering themselves. It was also somewhat recently revealed in a review by DC’s Aaron Leitko this songs interesting history. The even slower, weirder second half is the result of a trick employed by producer Ian Mackaye to fit the lyrical output of the prolific and esoteric Higgs. The song is haunting as it is slowed to a crawl. The guitar strings feel pulled at with great effort. The bass and drums feel doused in pseudoephedrine and Higgs drags out his words, the trademark bark forming, but never exploding from the back of his throat.

Unanimous Hour always seemed light and soft and remained understated in the bands canon, at least it did for me. Considering too this was the album that was released around the time that I discovered the band, it’s rather amusing to me that today, it stands out as such a different album. If you had asked me which album should be reworked and released first, Unanimous Hour would not have originally been my first choice, but as it follows Pass and Stow on this great reworking project, I am glad to find things in this album that I once missed out on. The record industry, from large corporate conglomerates to epic indies are all feeling the pinch, and so often these reissues feel like cash cows. But Dischord, always with grace isn’t attempting to bring back old fans, but instead to make available it’s catalog at the highest quality sound. Of course there is no other band on the planet that I want more of, the legend of their vaults is almost as epic as the band themself, but Dischord choses instead to offer the albums as they have always stood, relying not on gimmicks and the promise of low rent b-sides, but the actual power of the albums as they were recorded, imagined, conceived and presented. The higher quality mastering makes for a much deeper sonic experience which comes from a desire to capture the best of the bands as times change. Unanimous Hour is a needed record, as all Lungfish albums are, but it’s one whose new treatment exemplifies all that Lungfish created.

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