4 out of 5
Produced by: Jack Shirley
I accept that everyone has a different definition of musical genres. If I say something is “punk rock,” maybe that means an attitude to you, or maybe it conjures up specifics – The Clash; Minor Threat; Lookout Records; Blink-182… depending on when / if you got into the scene, and how deep you went with it, ‘punk’ can be a wholly different beast per person, not to mention all of the sub-genre terms we could start rattling off.
I’d further accept those references I made above as punk rock, for better or worse. My terminology is flexible enough to allow for it. However, if someone was looking for a modern touchpoint, and one that I thought tested some good boundaries, Super Unison’s Auto fits the bill.
Melding the hardcore touches of vocalist Meghan O’Neil‘s prior PUNCH to the other band members’ emo-rock leanings in groups like Snowing and Amber Inn, Super Unison find themselves, rather appropriately, at PUNCH’s former label home of all-things-hardcore-related Deathwish. Songs extend past the two minute mark, and O’Neil’s singing repertoire has expanded to include talk-shouting and sub-shouting alongside her powerful bellows. And it’s punk rock as heck. O’Neil’s lyrics are a great blend of open-ended tales and clear points of view, centered around staple punk topics like empowerment, and loss, and loneliness, tempered both by Meghan’s maturity in the scene and a female voice. The group leans into swaggery riffing throughout, with O’Neil mastering a sort of fuck-off “casual” voice – evidenced on singles like You Don’t Tell Me – with some mini-epics buoying that with some math-y touches and good ol’ emo warmth that can suddenly explode into searing hardcore; a track like Don’t Look Up, that combines all of this, is quite epic.
A few tracks take a few bars to get to a crescendo or hook, though; in forming this blend of punk and rock styles, it seems like SU doesn’t always know how to get to where they want to go, and so they just sort of start in the middle of a riff. This is then underplayed by Jack Shirley’s production, which I find to be rather flat when it doesn’t have counterpoints – like a strong bass line – to play off of.
However, on the whole, Auto reminded me of the kind of instant, fist-pumping energy I used to get from those first experiences of discovering punk rock as a youth, with an added sense of weight and maturity to the sound that makes it enduring, and more powerful than a lot of the fleeting three-chord punk out there.