It’s been a tough Thursday for Geoff Rickly. It’s also been a tough Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Since the overdo demise of his main thing Thursday, in 2011, luck hasn’t come too often.
In the aftermath of Thursday Rickly worked in retail, lost a girlfriend, got robbed and toured houses behind the solo material he recorded as Hurricane Sandy hit. All of that churning ill will had to be released somewhere, at some time.
United Nations is the side project Rickley started in 2005 with various members of other bands. He has revived it for their excellent, hair-raising second album, The Next Four Years.
Immediately, the album gets right to it’s intended point: to riddle the boombox with bullet holes and scream about it. Musically, it’s abrasive and destructive–a siren call to society’s devastation.
Over the years, the actual members of the group have changed and been kept secret due to contractual obligations, but have consisted of players from Converge, Pianos Become Teeth, Thursday, Glassjaw and others. Rickly has always been at the helm.
Throughout these eleven songs United Nations is in a relentless pursuit of music that combusts from exhaustion. The ceiling caves in under the weight of the album’s opening song, “Serious Business,” and leaves the listener to search the rubble. “Revolutions At Varying Speeds” gives a constant jolt to the brain until you start to wonder if the track is skipping or if you’ve fallen into some grindcore purgatory.
Fans of Thursday’s lighter side–the one that supplanted the term “emo” in the black hearts of millions–might find the album a turn-off. This is the metal music Thursday always stayed flailing on the outskirts of. It’s compact, direct and in the business of crushing ear drums with mid-level blast beats.
Rickly’s pained vocal wallowing comes through his inner-Venom screams, but only barely. When he screams, he sounds like a bitter Gollum galloping through the forest seeking revenge.
The raining down of rockets quiets only for brief interludes. “F#A#$” pulls the listener in close for the only long-lasting moment of calm on the record. The guitars lull contemplatively, pushed along by a forceful drumbeat, before turning back to the singed sounds of depravity.
The project has been apt to court controversy, most obviously by sharing a name with a certain powerful intergovernment agency (who is not pleased). They’ve also bastardized iconic album covers, making them their own (The Beatles smoldering in flames walking down Abbey Road for their self-titled debut; a near-exact replica of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols for their four-song EP, Never Mind the Bombings, Here’s Your Six Figures.)
The music on The Next Four Years, and of United Nations, is a direct reflection of the frustration felt in dealing with, and conceding to, the arbiters of inaction in the United States government. It hardly matters any more which side you’re on.
As the album fades from the onslaught, the final thing we hear is Rickly shouting over the sound of a gavel knocking on a piece of wood. “Changing parties / Changing minds,” he shouts on the closing track, “Music For Changing Parties.” Between each line, a voice mutters, “Always the same.”