Unbunny – Sensory Underload: Uncertain Trks 1996-2008

Sensory Underload: Uncertain Trks 1996-2008

You may not even need hear this album. If you’re the kind of music listener who’d read a write-up for a band called Unbunny with an album title as self-deprecating as Sensory Underload, you’ve probably written all these songs and more, be it in your head, heart, or black-and-white composition notebook. You’re the kind of Type C despondent who’s lost sleep agonizing over track order on a mixtape, who winced the first time he tasted a beer, who is well-acquainted with the walls of his own room. (No sexism intended in pronoun choice, but Unbunny has an undeniable resonance with a certain type of sensitive male.)

I can’t write songs, though, and you may not, either, so diligent search of surrogates is a necessity. Unbunny, vessel of folk-pop composer Jarid del Deo for more than a decade, is a damn fine example. Sensory Underload compiles scattered EP, compilation, and demo tracks from the past 13 years, many on CD for the first time, though if you haven’t sampled Unbunny before, the collection is as prime an entry point into his material as any. Del Deo lays bare himself, his companions, his enemies, imagined versions of the previous three, and the connections that hold them all together. It falls somewhere between Elliott Smith and Mark Kozelek/Red House Painters, though without the oblique arrangements of the latter and with greater lyrical directness than the former. His voice, evoking consistent comparison to Neil Young, is indelicate and high-pitched, an ideal combination for such soul-sifting songwriting, especially when it’s double-tracked so as to allow him to sing along with himself.

These lo-fi, bite-size nuggets are destined for CD-R placement. There’s “The Path,” a personal indictment of faith from one individual to another, to sit between XTC’s “Dear God” and Matthew Sweet’s “Nothing Lasts” on your pop-non-believer mix. Then, try “X,” comprised of a litany of internal-impeachments like “Afraid of decisions / Afraid of love / Afraid of the future / All of the above,” for making the most of your self-hate. “We’re All Gonna Die,” a half-minute singalong that injects gloom with saccharine cheer (“Ha ha ha ha!”), performs well when you need to do so yourself. Embrace “Mandi” for the ever-popular music-about-music compilation, del Deo smirking, “Sending you Superchunk on a tape full of songs / It’ll blow you away with its content and form / It’s got all the guitar parts in all the right places / I swear that the words were written about us.” Now, really – if you were reared on ’90s indie rock, there’s little chance that didn’t arouse a smirk.

That’s what Unbunny is all about, though, so a smirk isn’t a surprise. It’s honest music, it’s plain music, it’s human music, albeit for a slightly limited audience. When del Deo claims to have accidentally cut himself in “Queen of Nothing,” how can anyone not believe that, sometime, years ago, he left dribbled stains on ex-girlfriend’s old sofa?