May 2 - 9, 1 9 9 6
Unun: Innocence Earned
Unun's Super Shiny Dreams (bad taste USA) reinvents new wave in an accident of odd combinations. From Reykjavik, Iceland, these puckish druids fall right out of the trees into the American Mall of fluorescent daylight and indoor villages. Of course, malls are few and far between in Iceland, and the gleefully anomalous qualities you hear in lead singer Heida's porcelain innocence demonstrate that the filter through which the band hear the '70s and '80s must have cracked in cold temperatures. And so they are utterly refreshing, approaching old themes with the same wonder and immediacy of a boy who skips on a rubberized mat just to see the pneumatic doors whisper open.
A humorous mix of pop melodies, dance tracks (imagine Gary Numan and the Go-Go's) and funky little discords (a kind of two percent feedback-free Belly), Unun delights immediately with the quirky "First Aid": "I saw him/at the first-aid evening class/so peaceful/in placid harmony/I touched him/he stirred." Dr. Gunni's bass is mischievous and protective, marshaling Heida's earnest romance with a CPR dummy with whom she has found "elastic unity," but guiding the rest of the band through the modest wow and flutter of early B-52's. Twinning refrains equally ingenuous -- "No, no, no . . . Yes! Yes! Yes!" and "This was love at first aid" -- pretty much summarizes the engaging themes on this debut disc.
"Fistful of Love" does not suggest a fist at any point: a bouncy 4/4 and syncopated handclaps place you in the midst of delirious teenyboppers singing, say, Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me." Heida's girlish voice creates another sweet persona, this time drowning in the moonlight on her living room floor as she waits for that special someone, perhaps one of the guys from A-Ha. "Far" is a pop rave-up with lots of "oohs" and "aahs," sweet synthesizers, and little crescendos that explode like bubble gum. It opens with tilted keyboards à la Martha & the Muffins, but slips into Unun's thoroughly rejuvenated pop world where Scott Baio posters slip off the wall at a pajama party run just slightly amuck. The odd mix of small-town rock and new-wave punk in "Kung Fu Blue" defines the band's studied naiveté. At the same time that the music works because it borrows without irony, the lyrics conjure up images of Fred Schneider winking: "He is hot but still so cool/mega biceps packed with power/beating up the Triad scum/in a warehouse by the Hong Kong harbor./He keeps the ghetto clean/so superfunky mean/kung fu death machine/straight off my TV screen."
Listen to the pale intonations and high-sentimentality in "Dead & Breakfast" where Heida ventures forth into the afterlife as a Kewpie doll, round-cheeked under spiked quills. She's accompanied by Johann Johannson's mock-serious organ; and guitarist Thor Eldon's easy blend of rhythm leads and light runs sending you into the world of John Hughes until it all bleeds into weird whistles and chants before returning to the safety of the movie set. Brief, amusing forays into heavy metal, hardcore, and sticky-sweet folk-pop follow, but Heida wants to sing the way Julianna Hatfield would sing if all her prismed light illumined romance. This would be a great album to have for a beach party. In a landscape where fireflies don't light up the trees and what blossoms is scarce, her innocence is earned.
PS The original review is consistent in using Heidi instead of Heida