Vinyl Box Sets and Plastic Combs – Unrest’s Perfect Teeth. Brightening, to learn a few weeks back that Teenbeat would be reissuing the 1993 album Perfect Teeth. For those of us who immersed ourselves in independent music during those years, there’s a triumphant feeling in seeing the D.C. label’s headlining act Unrest resurface in full 7” box set glory.
Reflecting on this particular album’s place in history seems to require a few steps back, though. Evaluating Perfect Teeth on musical merit alone doesn’t really speak to the statement signified by its initial release. I’m not sure any proper Unrest album can lay claim to being “the best” or even most timeless.
Even one of this one’s grander statements, the eponymous ode “Cath Carroll” is superseded by the the band’s previous cover of Miaow’s “When It All Comes Down.” A flawless celebration of Carroll’s precisely patterned oscillations and prismatic conception, that gem is now available on the singles collection B.P.M. Originally, though, it could be mined only via Sub Pop’s March 1991 Singles Club 7” of which only a few thousand lilac or black (and, just maybe, pink) copies were pressed. Wouldn’t you love to own one?
Mark E. Robinson’s pursuit of shimmery pop perfection has always seemed to dive between the finest cracks to be found in the sheerest accessible musical material. The more overt paeans to his inspirations were relegated to EPs or tangential supergroups rather than being included on more easily attained full-length Unrest records. The reissue of Perfect Teeth for me is a reminder of that elusive quality, not just in the sound Robinson idealized but in the product he put out.
For Robinson’s subsequent Air Miami records Teen Beat partnered with 4AD, a label that also followed an artisan vision. 4AD’s Lilliput compendium bears serendipitously pleasing similarities to the 7” box set of Perfect Teeth, traits that go beyond yet complement the sounds within: presentation painstakingly designed, issued in limited edition, utterly distinct from fare processed for mass-consumption by the majors. To come into possession of one of these sets will always be worth the avid record collector’s effort. These are works of art. Just don’t expect the music to stand still like a museum piece.
Yeah, “Make-Out Club” still makes me pogo dance with glee, shimmying my hips between hops. But it’s the handcrafted aspect of Robinson’s work and of that period in indie rock, that I hope the next generation cherishes and nurtures. And yes, the comb matters.