There are certain northwest '90s bands that exist in a tier that's above much need for genre. The Melvins. Mudhoney. Treepeople. Dead Moon. Independent or DIY in approach, but applying musical descriptions like "grunge," "metal," "post (insert something)," all just seem awfully constricting and shitty. Unwound fits squarely in this tier of bands. Fans watched them change from the excellently angry and loose rattle of Fake Train to the almost 4AD lushness of Leaves Turn Inside You, and they made all kinds of evolutionary stops along the way.
Most people who know Unwound know the trio that started with Fake Train in 1993 and ended about eight or nine years later. The band had actually existed for a couple years prior, and this new three-LP compilation released by the (largely) soul-reissue-focused Numero Group collects songs from the pre-Fake Train era, when Brandt Sandeno drummed for Unwound and the band played something more like hardcore. "Kid Is Gone" is a great early track from the Gravity label 7" (still in print), with Brian Jones' face screen-printed on the jacket. Unlike some "early years" comps where you have to wade through a lot to arrive at some gems, this is full of hits and it shows a band that never had a shortage of great ideas ready to go.
In the winter of 1993/1994 I got to see Unwound play about 10 times when my brother's band, The Waydowns, opened for them on a West Coast tour. Folks as varied as the Melvins and Man is the Bastard and Drew Barrymore came out to the packed shows, 90 percent of which were all-ages. Unwound were an absolute force—three people pre-determined to play music together and communicating with a single psi-brain, loud Sunns amps and the kind of fluidity that set them thoroughly apart. They were generous, too. They shared a solid heap of what they made from the door with my brother's band, and helped the three of us find floors to sleep on, introduced us to Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, the Wipers, and the Mummies' hearse.
Kid Is Gone is a great set of previously unreleased and obscure songs that would have otherwise been next to impossible to track down. And, the band that most of us love with Sara Lund drumming is really a continuation of what was started here with the first lineup. So it's a great pick-up spot for a fan hungry for the aggression and desperate feel of the early stuff. Newcomers interested in a killer band who channeled the geist of the '90s way more timelessly than most will be stoked to drop the needle too.