Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy Sept. 24, 2004
The name under which Rick White, Dallas and Travis Good, Sean Dean, Mike Belitsky and Greg Keelor chose to collaborate and record certainly provides a laundry list of thematic possibilities for critics looking for a good, juicy hook.
To be blunt, though, after listening to the lazy-day psych-rock and folksy but well-charted semi-jams that saturate the sextet’s debut, it may be safe to say the only unintended things herein might be found by those tripping the light fantastic as they listen to it.
This is a record that, for all its calm, easy-going refrains and spacey meanderings, knows exactly what it wants and exactly where it’s going.
What’s even more odd about this pronounced sense of direction and cohesion is that the record tends to get progressively better and more fully formed as the minutes pass.
This isn’t to say the dissonant, digital-delayed electric guitar, reverbed backing vocals and underplayed bass-and-drum patterns of “Bells of War” (Song #5) are inherently stronger than the looping guitar wails, bass pulses and church-organ-gone-awry atmosphere of “The Collapse” (Song #1). It’s just that both seem to serve their place and function quite well within the landscape of the record’s 11 songs.
Also, instead of revisiting riffs on the same two or three formulas, The Unintended have the good sense to expand their sonic palette and they do, to great success, near the record’s center.
“A Quiet Getaway,” though it mimics its predecessors’ sense of moody atmospherics and psych-drenched bridges, shines because of the acoustic guitar lines that wander throughout the song, occasionally poking their heads further out of darkness for a spirited instrumental refrain. The song is followed by “Controller Aware,” a menacing little number where the lead vocals get an increasingly Pink Floyd-influenced treatment and bassist Dean and drummer Belitsky trade in the sway and lounge and space-out of 60s jazz-folk-psych-rock for a slightly more edgy percussive backbone.
The jazzy swing of “The Light,” the playful country-and-western acoustic romp of “Angel,” the sometimes-somber balladry of “No Curse Of Time” and the gray-cloud resolve of the closing “Beautiful Things” are among the record’s finest points.
A lot of listeners will probably latch onto the often whispered and frequently reverb-fixated vocals of White, Good, Good and Keelor, all of whom provide some narrative voices throughout the trip. The vocals themselves, though getting prominent placement on the CD, are subtly recorded.
They’re carefully inserted throughout the proceedings.
And they’re well-mixed and seem very aware not to overpower the music that often comes close to swallowing them whole. Lyrically, there’s room for imagination but the delivery itself seems to carry the listener beyond any rough spots.
What’s most impressive though, even on first and second and third listen, is how well written and plotted The Unintended’s music feels. The group’s verses and choruses are familiar and inviting without seeming formulaic, evocative of psych-luminaries like The Dead and The Doors without feeling derivative or Photostatic. For all the acts out there trying to ape Phish on the road to commercial success, that accomplishment in and of itself is worth noting.
The Unintended, at times, even feel like they’re pulling their songs from some bygone rock era, when sonic intuition and chemistry between musical players were more mass-commercial commodities in their own right and everyone wasn’t in such a rush to get to the blazing chorus. Listen to the act’s trippy self-titled offering again and you might just believe those days are ahead of us again.