Artist: Unit Theory
We're all born with a unique mix of gifts. That is, the mix is unique, but not necessarily the gifts. And what to do when someone beats you to the punch? Becomes famous for something you'll do so well years down the road? Such it is with Bryan Cooper of Epic Failure and now Unit Theory. It wasn't his fault Kurt Cobain got famous before he did. Fire up Bryan Cooper's vocal on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2vlzp5nWzQ and tell me you wouldn't have thought Cooper was the next rock god. But now, post-Kurt, we naturally hesitate before crowning Cooper king. Because that raw sneer is just too similar (though fucking amazing).
And at times, in Cooper's Epic Failure, we hear echoes of other bands who also began their 15 minutes after the sands of Nirvana's hourglass started falling. In Epic Failure's “Amount to Nothing,” we hear the distorted chug of Local H's “High-Fiving MF” (at :26 of the above-linked YouTube) and the vocal fills of Stone Temple Pilots' “Down” (1:30 of YT vid); in “Kyphophobia,” there's the pacing/progression of the Presidents of the United States of America' “Peaches” (4:39 of YT vid); in “Occupied,” the backing howl of Our Lady Peace (12:51 of YT vid); with “What's Wrong,” the singsong dynamics of Hole's “Violet” (16:14 of YT vid); on “Someday,” the lead guitar effects of Soundgarden's “Black Hole Sun” (22:52 of YT vid); in “Advantage,” the progression of 7 Year Bitch's “Knot” (24:53 of YT vid); and with “Pictured,” the prominent acoustic pacing of Soul Asylum's “Runaway Train” (28:19 of YT vid).
But Mr. Dream it is not. By way of background, Mr. Dream was a band comprised primarily of Pitchfork music reviewers. With their track “Holy Name,” they bit all over Nirvana's catalog. Cooper never fell into that trap, abandoning the valuable-but-trademarked vocal to become a post-grunge savior much the same way Dave Grohl did. We hear it all over Unit Theory's Reverb Nation page (http://www.reverbnation.com/UnitTheory2011/songs), which presents these newer tracks in various stages of completeness (rehearsal, studio, album, and live). Behold Unit Theory's jangly bit o' brightness, “Warped View,” which is closer to Foo Fighters' “Big Me” than anything Grohl ever performed with Nirvana. Cooper even rescues “Pictured” from his Epic Failure days, since it only evoked Cobain insofar as Kurt covered the alt-rocker Vaselines for Unplugged (“Pictured” at 1:32). It should be clear: Unit Theory is decidedly post-grunge.
Which is for the best. Because like Mr. Dream, who were memorably original with non-Nirvana entries like “Crime” and to a lesser extent “Croquet,” for Cooper & Co. it's these Unit Theory songs that we keep going back to. Whether it's the triumphant guitar tone of “Dream” (at :20), the subtle hook of ascending “yeahs” on “My Life” (at 1:36), the compelling guitar riff/bridge of “Safe Haven” (at 2:07), or the textured rhythm section of Jesse Rucco and Ryan Mackner (e.g. “Dream” at 1:09), Unit Theory finally reveals the silver linings that lurked beneath Epic Failure's dark clouds.
And it just goes to show. Bryan Cooper possesses the one gift Kurt may have lacked: not just the capacity, but the willingness to change.
*** The author of this review, Randy Powell, plays the kanjira for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8