CD Review – The Unicorns “Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?”

The Unicorns
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?

Everyone knows good phone messages are pranks left by sloppy drunks nostalgic for better times. The Unicorns’ Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? is possibly the best, most elaborate phone message possible.

The Unicorns are of a prankster breed drunk with a cathartic and desperate need to express life as they see it — absurdly. However, this is no phone message; it’s a potpourri of randomly poetic lyrics set to childishly catchy tunes. Also, they’re the best rock ‘n roll pranksters this side of the 21st century.

The Unicorns make unusual pop tunes for college-aged listeners, and will therefore be labeled independent, alternative or underground. It’d be unjust to group these guys into generalizations that compromise their style, because they stand alone as a truly original band.

The group uses enough disparate instruments to make The Beta Band, Belle and Sebastian and Connor Oberst jealous, including the glockenspiel, fiddle and the clarinet just to name a few.

Probably the closest bands from the past to rival The Unicorns’ flighty sensibilities are The Flaming Lips and Pavement.

The Unicorns are like The Flaming Lips’ younger hot-shot brother. Like Pavement, The Unicorns craft loose-knit songs that often sprawl with changes uncommon of usual rock ‘n roll structure, which usually maintains a similar hook throughout a song.

The methods of The Unicorns are simply more extreme than Pavement’s ever was and they manage to be “extreme” without a wall of sound and a snowboard in one hand.

What makes The Unicorns’ humorous fun into good art is the band’s frequent recognition of the dark side.

The first song is a Beatle-esque ditty titled “I Don’t Wanna Die,” where singer/songwriters Nicholas “Niel” (that’s right, i before e) Diamonds and Alden Ginger duet, “I predict I’ll die in a plane crash / Psssh-boom.” “Tuff Luff” is like some pensive Elliot Smith ballad at first, and then it morphs into something like Bruce Hornsby’s version of “Stay,” wherein The Unicorns use a penny whistle.

“Child Star” finds the pair bickering nonsensically about their star power, signifying a happy-go-lucky take on egotism. The song also seems to give a nod to one of the band’s influences.

A melody from The Rentals’ “Sweetness and Tenderness” shows up in the middle of “Child Star,” only this version of the riff uses a toy organ instead of a Moog synthesizer.

Likewise, in “The Clap,” the band uses a melodic phrase that could have been taken from The Lemonheads’ “Break Me.” “Les Os” sounds like a more staccato version of “My Sharona.”

These influences don’t feel like rip-offs; all The Unicorns’ songs have so many other things happening that the listener won’t have to worry about a lack of ideas. Any familiarity to other bands is just complimentary.

Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? will charm the pants off of any hipster, while remaining as accessible as Oscar the Grouch is to a toddler.

On this freshman effort, The Unicorns manage what many groups have tried and failed to do before them by creating something so distinct and well done it’s almost a new genre.

In a world where, in some circles, “ska-core” is considered the true test of manhood, it’s good to know that some men are not afraid to use colored clouds and rainbows as their cover art.