Sometime in the early 1990s, I woke up on New Year's Day with a nasty case of the flu (I was still straight edge, so this was flu, not "flu"). I lay around for a while feeling bad, then finally tentatively got up -- at which point I saw, on top of a stack of albums, Unsane's self-titled LP. If you're familiar with the band, you likely know what the cover is; if you aren't, believe me, you're better off not seeing this image. It was sufficient to push my already-delicate system over the edge, and throwing up ensued.
I've been listening to the first few Unsane albums repeatedly lately; basically all the stuff on Matador. There's a real break after "Total Destruction" -- I love everything they ever did, but from "Scattered, Smothered and Covered" on, they're much more... accessible isn't the right word to describe Unsane, but more polished. Listening to them at the time it all seemed like a natural progression, but now I just about think of Unsane as two different bands -- the scum rock version and the more metal version that showed up on Am Rep and Relapse. Both great, but if I had to choose, it's the early years.
Those first couple albums (and I'll count "Singles '89-'92" as an album, since I first heard all those songs on that collection) are just nasty. Vicious, evil stuff. Something like "Urge to Kill" might seem goofy on paper but hearing the delivery, man, that was kind of believable. Combined with the gruesome cover art, Unsane was the soundtrack to a complete breakdown of society, signifying a bad, fearsome world out there. The only other bands I can think of that were similarly off-putting in a real-world sense are Godflesh and Missing Foundation, but Godflesh was half great and half dull and I'd rather listen to cats mating than Missing Foundation. Unsane consistently delivered the goods.
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#20 -- "The Big Over Easy" by Jasper Fforde
#21 -- "Ashes and Diamonds" by Jerzy Andrzejewski
After reading "The Well of Lost Plots" lately, I was in the mood for more Fforde, and this was a natural choice -- it grows out of a throwaway line at the end of "Well" and starts off the Jack Spratt series, which continued with "The Fourth Bear," which again I read a few years ago. Funny as hell, sorry that there aren't any more Spratt novels out yet.
I've been reading "Ashes and Diamonds" off and on for a while and finally just knocked it off, and gosh, I need a hug. Who knew that Poland at the end of World War II was such an unfun place? People try to find some hope, but just end up in a world of shit. I've been reading a Bogart biography lately and it strikes me that this is kind of the anti-Bogart movie; everything branches off in ways that are the absolute opposite of how they would in, say, "Casablanca." Alternately, if I want to tie things together, Unsane would do a pretty good soundtrack for this book. A very good read, but make sure you're on an emotional high before you start it. There's an acclaimed movie version of this, which I'll check out sometime when I feel like I've been too happy.