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Album Review: Fuck Work by The Unemployed Misfortune

For me, one of the only surprises nicer than a fresh good album by a band I didn’t know existed is to discover that the songwriting, performing, production, and even the kick-ass cover art is largely the product of a single musician. This kind of milestone seems to open possibilities for independent artists in all media. Fuck Work is an arresting new CD by a Chicago band called the Unemployed Misfortune, and seems to be largely the work of one Brian Broscoe. Apparently the album has already broken in Japan, and now the U.S. may be ready for it.

From track one, the power poppy, punchy, punky songcraft will get your attention. Snotty, bratty vocals, taut harmonies, and well-oiled guitar parts fit together seamlessly. While the CD doesn’t stray far from straight-ahead rock, there are enough acoustic surprises to keep things interesting.

With eccentric keyboard parts, and a (welcome) female vocalist, a stand-out track is “Love is Strange,” a cover of a song first made famous in 1957 by Mickey and Sylvia, and covered by many legends including Paul McCartney and Wings. The crunching guitar breaks and pleasing melodic keyboard counterpoints of “Next Time” add richness to the overall sonic palette. “Perfect Moment” cultivates a subtler, less distortion-driven arrangement. “Death in the Family” is a song I consider one of the strongest, approaching a difficult subject and risky, ambitious emotional range with more fully articulated melodies. “Ugh!” is a delight, a model of songcraft, concise but blossoming with unexpected harmonic developments. If the musical consistency throughout Fuck Work is unadventurous, it is also unpretentious. This is a band who plays on its strengths, and knows how it needs to stand to deliver a solid punch.

One unfortunate symptom of creating an album mostly alone might be a tendency toward solipsistic self-consciousness, as in songs like “Self Deprecate” and “The Only Song I Wrote in 2004.” Another problem for me is that some of the venom directed toward ex-girlfriends should have been hurled at work. The album doesn’t live up to the important message in its title. The break-up songs get alienating; I would have liked fewer tracks about girls and more about middle managers. “I Don’t Deserve This” is a low-point of whiny-boy band art. But the other CD-only bonus track, “Before, After, Still,” one of the most solid cuts on the CD, ends the album with a positive mood, being a tribute to one of the women who did not ruin the songwriter’s life.

With few flaws and many victories, Fuck Work marks Brian Broscoe’s The Unemployed Misfortune as a band to watch. If he could pull off a disc this strong working mostly alone, we can expect great things as he matures as a songwriter and continues to find musical collaborators.

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