THE UNBAND with the KILLER ELITE, at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Friday (July 14). $8. 968-2001. Rating: NNNNN
W ith kiddie bands commandeering one corner of contemporary music and hip hop staking out the other, it was really only a matter of time before a loud, fast stoner threat rumbled down the road proclaiming, with arena-rock authority, the sanctity of getting high and scoring in the back of a painted van.
They might sound like an import from a greaser enclave like Detroit, but the leafy suburban environs of Northampton, Massachusetts, evidently couldn't squash the ragged chicks-and-beer ethos of the Unband.
In their cheeky little hands, the themes of sex, drugs and rock and roll are ennobling and to be celebrated, just like KISS and the Stooges did back in the day. If there weren't already a soundtrack to glorious pothead flick Dazed And Confused, the Unband's unapologetically retro Retarder debut would serve nicely.
Add in the group's well-earned rep for unhinged shows sometimes performed in the nude, other times in frilly shirts and jackets and almost always under the influence of alcohol, and you've got yourself a modern-day Motor City-style trip.
The leather-vested longhairs soon to be exposed to the Unband's toxic, tequila-stained anthems during their upcoming support slot with Def Leppard will think they're seeing the second coming. Hell, the Unband even do a Billy Squier cover. Straight-faced. What could be more classic?
Rock rebels "People think we're part of this movement to save rock and roll, when we've been doing this for 10 years," chatty singer/guitarist Matt Pierce offers from, inexplicably, the middle of a Northampton parking lot.
"We never really took it that seriously. We were quite happy being a bar band, and it kind of exploded by accident because we were better than everybody else playing around the area.
"Of course, now I get yelled at constantly," he sighs. "Over money, strict rehearsal times, bookings. It's almost become a headache, though the rewards are pretty good. You get to act like an asshole in front of groups of people and get paid for it."
Clearly, intricate music-industry practices are of little interest to Pierce, drummer Eugene Ferrari and bassist Michael Ruffino, though Pierce admits the democratic vote brought about by playing in a trio is a source of consternation. Take said rehearsals, for instance.
Though Pierce lives in New York, he must travel back to Massachusetts to hash out new song ideas because the other two voted that way. One thing they could all agree on, though, is that they're better off playing for geezer Def Leppard fans than for snotty-nosed punks.
"Our label wanted to put us on the biggest tour they could find," Pierce says, admitting that excellent press hasn't yet translated into excellent album sales.
Stifling punk "The Warped Tour came up, but it didn't really seem like the right thing for us. Our stuff might go over the kids' heads. They need to see bands that all sound like each other and look like each other. All kids are like that at some point before they bust out and do their own thing.
"We're kind of past all that. Also, some people think KoRn and Limp Bizkit are the return of hard rock, which is hardly the case, in my opinion. Sorry if you like those bands, but that's not punk rock. It's frat-boy music.
"With Def Leppard, the thinking is that maybe if we're in front of 20,000 classic rock fans, we'll sound vaguely familiar and go over better. So it made more sense."