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Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation

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Album Review

For the D.C.post-punk scene of the late '80s to early '90s, few groups were as wildly experimental as Unrest. The string of albums on Teenbeat were scarcely fathomable at the time, and many post-punk fans were polarized into two camps, one half left scratching their heads in wonder while the other praised this new life injected into the genre. Not until the late '90s was such eclecticism explored by the likes of Gastr del Sol, who summoned an era when minimalism, post-rock, orchestral, and lo-fi musings could all rub shoulders on one album. This was an era in which Mark Robinson was indeed influential in shaping being that Unrest was the forerunner to this subgenre; as early as the mid-'80s, Unrest dealt in the art of pop pastiche, with little recognition. Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation epitomizes this approach to excellent effect with a heavy dose of irony that shines through in the titles "Black Power Dynamo" and "Kill Whitey," and a ten-minute spoken-word piece about the misfortunes of Sammy Davis, Jr. "Invoking the Godhead" is a wry fake metal track inspired by filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who crops up as a reoccurring subject throughout Unrest's recorded works. "Click Click" and "The Foxey Playground" are the two pieces the album could have lived without, though maybe it was the very quirkiness of these that earned Unrest such a highly regarded position in the indie rock cannon. While the titles "Chick Chelsea Delux" and "She Makes Me Shake Like a Soul Machine" may be deceptive, these are deliciously affecting melancholic pop tunes that indicate the direction the group took on their next album — the elaborate pop of Imperial f.f.r.r. on 4AD.

Biography

Formed: 1981 in Washington DC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

The flagship act of frontman Mark Robinson's own TeenBeat label, Unrest was a towering pillar of the American indie rock community throughout the early '90s — from the tongue-in-cheek garage noise of their earliest efforts to the shimmering, manic pop thrills of their later, most enduring work, the band was a paragon of DIY virtue, perfecting a genre-hopping eclecticism and knowing, ironic lyrical outlook that virtually defined the sound and feel of college rock in the pre-grunge era. Robinson,...
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Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation, Unrest
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