Lost in the ’90s: Unrest

Combining shoegaze and dreampop with straight-ahead power pop, Washington D.C. indie-rock darlings Unrest were the brainchild of Mark Robinson, founder of the TeenBeat label.  After a few post-punk experimental years, Unrest tamed their sound a bit (with plenty of more unorthodox tracks here and there) and snagged a distribution deal with famed 4AD Records, which was itself distributed in the U.S. by Warner Brothers.  This is a roundabout way of basically saying their 1993 album, Perfect Teeth, was the first to get a major label push which resulted in the band getting some MTV play on “120 Minutes.”

It was there that I first saw the video for “Cath Carroll.” (download) a swirling, manic pop confection that sounded like Catherine Wheel covering the Partridge Family.  The song was an ode to the NME journalist and Factory Records artist, and a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait of Carroll was used for the cover of Perfect Teeth.

However, it was the second video taken from the album, “Make Out Club,” (download) that finally drove me to the record store.  Brandishing a definite Pixies/Frank Black vibe, the single’s infectious dueling jangly guitars and stop/start structure made it irresistable.  The trouble was finding a copy of the album to buy.

You see, back then I lived in small town Elyria, Ohio, with a total of two record stores, perrenial mom & pop Kamms Record Shop and a local Coconuts.  While Kamms would never dream of stocking something as obtuse as Unrest, Coconuts was usually pretty good about keeping at least one copy in stock of such things.  Trouble was, there seemed to be one other tragically hip music fan in Elyria who sometimes beat me to that single copy.  It happened with Teenage Fanclub.  It happened with Eugenius.  And it happened with Unrest.

I eventually scored a copy of Perfect Teeth by taking a road trip to überhip punk enclave Coventry Village in the suburbs of the big city of Cleveland.  Thankfully, it was worth the hunt, as tracks like “Six Layer Cake” (download) ensured I wasn’t getting an album with two good tracks and lots of filler.  Unrest broke up in 1994, though, as Mark continued on as Air Miami for a few singles and an album before becoming a solo act.  Perfect Teeth is currently out of print, but used copies aren’t too tough to score and it’s definitely recommended.

None of the singles charted.

Get Unrest music at Amazon or on Unrest.