In one of its most basic forms, rock music is about finding a recognizable pattern in an ocean of noise. Bands like Pavement and Sebadoh have made careers on slowing down, leaving in the fuzz, and letting their listeners excavate both melody and meaning. Unhistories, the debut from Chicago quartet Singer, is created with this ethic firmly in place. The eight songs in the set meander around, sometimes finding a melody but more often staying lost in a mass of sound.
There is nothing wrong with the fact that Singer drops the traditional three-minutes and three-chord construction, but a definite idea for exploration is needed when stepping away from the norm. Otherwise, listeners are subjected to experimentation that makes no particular artistic statement. This feeling abounds on Unhistories. Moments of inspiration spiral into melody, but too often the guitars seize on a simple statement and work it to the point of monotony.
Singer also fails to develop any coherent approach to vocalization. The lyrics, most of which are fragmentary and disconnected from one another, are alternately spoken, warbled, and shouted by each band member. The effect is disorienting and, again, leaves Unhistories without a thread to tie itself together.
All of the noise and suspect vocals would be forgivable if Singer delivered something of substance. One of the greatest pleasures in rock ‘n’ roll is waiting for that one incredible melody or chorus to develop from nothingness. Singer provides the nothingness in abundance, but fails to give the payoff. There is something to be said for Singer’s adventuresome spirit, especially on a debut, but Unhistories is ultimately an excursion where the hardships of travel outweigh the territories discovered.