UXO qualify for the dreaded “supergroup” tag, but to me, they sound more like the manifestation of a fanboy daydream. The band’s marquee members are dual frontmen Steve Austin of Today Is The Day and Chris Spencer of Unsane, two acts that played starring roles in the influential ’90s noise rock scene. Both musicians remain active in the style they fostered — Austin still tours aggressively with the current incarnation of TITD, while Spencer performs with the Unsane-esque Cutthroats 9 — and their lengthy catalogs still exert considerable influence on rock and metal’s sketchier fringes.
Rumors of a Spencer/Austin collaboration have been floating around for years. (Thus, perhaps, the band name, which is shorthand for “unexploded ordinance.”) While it was always a safe bet that the resultant album would be hard on the ears, it was anyone’s guess how the pair’s extremely distinctive voices, both creative and literal, would mesh. As a big fan of both, it’s something of a relief for me to find that the answer is “extremely well.” UXO’s rhythm section, comprised of Vattnet Viskar bassist Aarne Victorine and Ironboss drummer Patrick Kennedy, lurches and heaves in a manner mostly reminiscent of Unsane, but Austin’s musical personality comes through loud and clear on “Redlegs” in the form of pinched-nerve chordwork and swarming, layered vocals. (Spencer has plenty of his own lead vocal spots, such as previous single “Trauma”.) This kind of project usually feels like a victory lap or an excuse for old friends to pound beers together in the studio, but UXO comes near to matching the intensity of its parent bands. More importantly, it echoes the world-weary melancholy that underpins all of Austin and Spencer’s best works. Life hasn’t been easy on these two, and if this album celebrates anything, it’s that they’re still around to team up. Listen.
UXO will be available on 1/29 via Reptilian Records. The band will embark on a short East Coast tour next month; here are the dates.
02/25 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
02/26 Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus
02/27 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
02/28 Boston, MA @ Middle East (Upstairs)