I can feel the impending wrath of these next comments, but at the end of last year, I ceremoniously picked my albums of the decade and found it hard not to putBlind Melon’s
debut album among them. That opus had a simplicity to it, ingrained within melodic hippie rock, and it kept re-appearing in my life and I found myself listening to that album non-stop in 1999, years after the CD stores had been filled with used copies of it. And if I had my way, I would remove the “hit” track (for lack of a better phrase) “No Rain” and what would remain would be a near perfect batch of dark optimism in search of the melancholic promise of sustainable belief. To make this whole thing eerier, I metShannon Hoon
a mere month before his exit and though the press nearly completely ignored his death, I felt a great loss. Not because I knew much about him or his band but that voice that spoke to me on “Change”, “I Wonder”, “Time” and “Tones of Home” had been extinguished and, under this added context, the words seemed to resonate with immense clarity.
So, you can imagine the elation I felt as I caught wind of a new band called Unified Theory that features old Meloners; guitaristChristopher Thornand bassistBrad Smith. I eagerly listened to the CD and it had traces of classic Melon mixed with a dash of dinosaur stomp and roll and a heavy dose of psychedelic swagger. But best of all, Unified Theory features a great new singer in Chris Shinn. The comparisons to Hoon are inevitable, but I would throw in a mix of the singer from Jellyfish. There you have it...what do you get when you crossa Blind Melon with a Jellyfish? A Unified Theory!
What really gets me is that I’ve taken time to read some of the interviews the band has been giving and they are reluctant to talk about Blind Melon and Shannon’s death. Give me a BREAK! If you weren’t in that band, you wouldn’t be doing the damn interview. But, I digress. This album is a solid rock record that will appeal to modern rockers, the jamband sector and anyone who longs for when Pearl Jammed. But wait, there’s more, U.T’s drummer is none other thanDave Krusenwho sat at the kit for one of my other favorite albums of the 90’s,Pearl Jam’s “Ten”.
Standout tracks are the swirling kaleidoscopic “A.M. Radio”, the prog space rock of “Cessna” and the fat bottom of the first single“California”, which is proof positive validating my previous rant. If you really want to distance yourself from the “old” band, then why lead off with a first single that sounds so much like your past! Answer: perception is 99%, music business 101. Nonetheless, “California” carries some weight and stands proud. But the tallest of the tall is "Not Dead", track number eleven. VocalistChris Shinnemotes “No, I’m Not Dead, Oh God, No I’m Not Dead...Yet!” It’s haunting and brings to surface instant speculation about lyrical inspiration. Nevertheless, a poignant beautiful piece that leads to this scenario...Shinn assimilating Hoon, vocally, emotionally and perhaps spiritually. “The more I believe the less I enjoy this life and the more I need you” he continues and I’m right there wondering if a change is gonna come.
This is followed by the “answer”, the equally hauntingly dark and pensive Beatle-esque “Keep On”. Chris sounds as if he’s channeling Shannon as he seems to answer his curious retort with “There’s a lot of things I never believe, like that I’d ever drown in the sea. I’m not bitter, I’d say it again if I could”. O.K. so you’ll have to read between my lines but these last two tracks “Not Dead” and “Keep On” makes this one a keeper. A beekeeper in search of a bee girl.