Unisex Stratosfear

Waiting for the new Spiritualized record? You'll be waiting a while. In the meantime, lend your ears to the spaced-out rock of Unisex, a band made up of former members of the Telescopes, who had moderate success on the legendary and now-defunct Creation record label. After the requisite name and line-up change, Unisex was born in their native town of Staffordshire, England. Stratsosfear is their debut full-length CD, released on American indie Double Agent. Apparently, the market for quirky psych-rock isn't exactly bullish in their native England. The good news is that this record is varied enough to make it extremely listenable. The opening track, "The Full Force of the Sun," sets the stage with a swirling array of vintage keys, guitar pop, driving bass lines and, yes, vocoder-enhanced vocals. The tracks continue in fine form, but before you can skin up another musical "accompaniment," Unisex surprise you with the playful, almost samba-like "The Anti-Gravity League." This is where things get interesting. Various instruments come and go (yes, they use a theremin), tempos vary and we even venture towards "single" material, with tracks like "Sidekick & Emo" or the outstanding "Midnight in the Stratosphere." Admittedly, Unisex are wearing their influences on their sleeves; a scan of the track names immediately makes one wonder if they listened to a bit too much Spacemen 3. Still, Unisex makes challenging, forward-thinking music that still has its roots in good melodies. Hats off to the rhythm section for keeping a real groove throughout Stratosfear. So what if they keep their gazes planted firmly on their shoes, how else can you keep track of all those pedals? (Double Agent)