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units - History Of The Units
Emerging from San Francisco's fertile new wave and performance art scene of the 1970s, The Units were a band that broke free from the manacled conventions of the punk movement, embracing a daring, all-synthesizer approach that made them pioneers in the field. Some of this early material from the band would initially seem to be in contravention with the spirit of the punk movement - for example, the arresting 'Bird River' is ostensibly a million miles away from anything that might be called punk: in essence its bounding synth arpeggios have more in common with convoluted (if rather disarrayed and imprecise) krautrock or prog than new wave, taking on a kind of homemade psychedelic feel that's highly inventive but entirely lacking in the primal no-chord thrills that defined primetime punk rebellion. But then what could be more in tune with the spirit of punk than flagrantly defying it? In 1978, eschewing guitars and the conventions of rock music altogether was probably about as close to the ideologies of the punk movement as you could get, and in the scrappiest most homemade sense, that's just what the band set about doing. The band's crowning achievement came a year later with 1979's comparatively polished 'High Pressure Days', which is by any standards a marvel, full of Talking Heads attitude, complex, jerky delivery and a proto-hip hop heaviness from the backbeat that just exudes originality and brilliance. If you only had to pick one Units track to add to the great new wave canon, then this would surely be it. Thinking about it, 'High Pressure Days' wouldn't be all that out of place on Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. Soon, as the band converged on the 1980s more hi-fi, well-organised sounds crept into the mix, resulting in vibrant singles like 'Digital Stimulation'. The synth-strangling 'Warm Moving Bodies' and 'Go' offer yet more comparatively straightened out sounds, but you'll still plenty of madness in the mix thanks to curious electronic sketches like 'East West 2', the like of which you'd never have heard The Human League going anywhere near. The Units represent an overlooked adjoining movement that bridged the DIY ethics of new wave with the electro-pop movement of the 1980s, and these early recordings represent a snapshot of that transition in all its shambolic, experimental glory. A hugely enjoyable collection and a must-have for any Post-Punk or New Wave heads among you = Essential Purchase.