United Nations‘ sophomore album The Next Four Years opens with a monstrous blast beat that immediately finds you looking down the barrel of a gun—actually, make that a canon, that is the band’s fiery sophomore album. This is no black metal outing, though. The band, which is really more of a collective, isn’t afraid of throwing anything and everything at the listener in service of obliterating ear drums. Of course this isn’t their only objective; the band also acts as a concept-of-sorts about the hypocrisy found in modern day punk music (the Black Flag-inspired cover even has something to say). But the music, particularly Geoff Rickly’s vocals, is so out-and-out ferocious that you’d have to sit down with the lyrics in front of you to really discern what they are unpacking.
Don’t worry though, if you’re just tuning in, there is plenty of fun to have with The Next Four Years that doesn’t entail unraveling its somewhat heady concept. In order to really appreciate what The Next Four Years represents, though, it’s important to know what the album was born out of. There is an undeniable amount of anger that flows through its veins, an anger that not only comes across in the album’s lyrics, but also its pure hardcore fury. And though the band features a rotating cast of members from bands like Converge, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Glassjaw, and Pianos Become the Teeth, United Nations is largely the brainchild of Geoff Rickly. And once you’re aware of what the last few years have held for Rickly, the furor begins to make more sense.
I was fifteen years old when Thursday’s Full Collapse came out. And while many people would point to one of the band’s later albums as their pinnacle, I maintain that Full Collapse was the perfect moment in the band’s career. In a lot of ways, that album changed my life by forever altering the course of my music listening habits. It was hugely important to me, and in a lot of ways it still is. So it really blows my mind that many former Thursday fans are almost ashamed to say that they once listened to the band. This band that I damn near worshiped. And what’s worse is that frontman Geoff Rickly knows this full well. Adding further salt to the wound, the band itself came to an unceremonious end without Rickly’s input a few years ago. Knowing this makes the blistering heat of The Next Four Years feel all the more vital.
And yet for as angry the album is, there is plenty of winking here as well. I mean, one needs to have a healthy sense of humor when looking at the current state of punk rock music. I’m afraid that it’s that or choose the depressing black hole of cynicism that would surely follow. For example, just look at the trendy (and coincidentally sold out) Minor Threat t-shirt that you can pick up at your local Urban Outfitters—a t-shirt that Ian MacKaye happens to be perfectly fine with. It’s this sort of ridiculous watering-down that United Nations are taking issue with. Instead of righteous indignation though, the band smirks, shrugs it off by distilling the emotion down into two-minute blasts of shrieking hardcore madness.
Like I said earlier though, all of this conceptual business is secondary to that very hardcore madness that lies right there waiting for you on the surface. The message would be nothing without the vehicle of the music to get it across, and fortunately for Rickly and the rest of United Nations, The Next Four Years is one of the best hardcore albums I’ve heard this year. Its controlled chaos edges it close to power-violence territory as the songs are typically short, brutal and unrelenting. And at less than half-an-hour, the album is over before you know it. Quick and painful. Just how I like it.
The Next Four Years is out now via Temporary Residence.