“Fast Casual “by The Unswept

The line between being a tribute or homage to an era of music and the risk of coming off as derivative grows thinner with each passing day; critics are growing weary of referential writing, partly out of fear that nothing can stand on its own two feet anymore, and original music grows harder and harder to find. To make it in the music industry, you have to have a small army capable of crafting hit songs at your disposal or you get nothing in return, it seems. Well, Chicago-based trio The Unswept seem to have a cure to all these modern ailments — their latest effort Fast Casual acts as a type of homage to the forgotten sounds of yesteryear in a modern way, and there’s no army of theirs waiting in the wings with notes. It’s a miraculous endeavor to hear in modern music, and a catchy one, too!

Comprised of three O’Briens (cousins Charlie, Liz, and Ryan), The Unswept has had quite the backstory to their musical upbringing. Born and raised in Sheffield, England, the trio got their start playing in a variety of bands together. After managing to score a gig with a popular touring group, it wasn’t long before the three relocated and found themselves in Chicago, Illinois. With Charlie on guitar and keyboard, Liz on bass, piano, and violin, and Ryan doubling as guitar and percussion, it wasn’t long until The Unswept was established! On top of managing a plethora of instruments each, the three musicians also all share singing duties — Fast Casual does a splendid job showcasing all three voices over a variety of genre flairs.

From the moment Fast Casual begins, you’re clued into the fact that The Unswept isn’t your usual band. Their worldly auras are apparent in the structures of the songs and the clever retoolings of tracks that feel plucked out of time from over sixty years ago. Songs such as “Lucinda Luann” and “Try To Forget You” are country-rock-driven tracks that feel the most contemporary, with the former being more of a ballad while the latter is a faster-paced entry. The Unswept never keep themselves in one lane on Fast Casual, as they shift from slow ballads to shredding guitar solos, and this unpredictability is what will keep the audience engaged. The mixed vocals for each song are a fun element to keep the audience intrigued, too, as all three O’Briens have varied tones and evocative singing styles. “We’re Gonna Split” features an infectious chorus that fans will be singing at shows to come, and “Codependent” branches out into territory that feels inspired by Devo more than anything else; The Unswept try on a variety of new hats with Fast Casual and it’s noticeably nurturing the band artistically.

The knack for paying tribute to a variety of well-established sounds without ever getting bogged down in the specifics is a tough tightrope to walk, but The Unswept pulls it off well. Fans will have fun linking certain songs to their classic musical inspirations, but there’s still plenty of original material that bolsters the songs as their own from The Unswept, too. Fast Casual lays it on heavy without ever losing the beat, and the tightrope act goes off without a hitch. When you’re a can-do band with a great attitude, anything is possible.

Michael Rand

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