Every major city in America has a "crusty" straight-up punk band. The members sport studded leather jackets, liberty spiked Mohawks, and dirty jeans — the uniform popularized by early-Eighties, Second Wave UK punk acts like GBH and the Exploited. Once dressed for the part, they do their best to sound just like those two bands — a charging, chainsaw-guitar-led musical attack with two speeds: 200 mph hardcore gallop and mid-tempo, tribal, circle-pit anthems. If you go to one of their shows, you will probably hear at least one plan to Dumpster-dive for pizza, and if you listen closely, you can learn exactly how much a six-pack of Old Milwaukee costs at the nearest 7-Eleven, including tax.
The Boston crust kings of The Unseen started out much like all of their contemporaries: one foot in the gutter and both ears listening to "City Baby's Revenge." But that was 14 years and a million shows ago, and their perseverance has paid off. While their look and gargling-with-glass vocals continue to party like it's 1982, the decade-plus of nonstop roadwork has improved their songwriting and showmanship to the point of no return for the "sellout"-crying crowd. Tunes such as "At Point Break," off of their latest album, Internal Salvation, are just as catchy as anything that's pop-punked out of Southern California in the past half-decade. Which explains why they've spent the past five years on the left coast's most notable punk labels: first a one-and-done stay on Youth Brigade's BYO label, and for the last two records, Rancid frontman Lars Fredrickson's Hellcat imprint. Now, instead of playing dives and sleeping on floors, The Unseen plays the entire Warped Tour and can stay at Motel 6.
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But perhaps most impressive is that bassist Tripp Underwood wrote a book. So This Is Readin'? is a hilarious, unsparingly truthful treatise about what it was like to "get in the van" during the first 12 years of the band's career. Opening with a "we're in it for the money" bar mitzvah gig for Aerosmith's bassist's kid, and detailing every last ugly smell, band drama, and broken-down vehicle, it's dually a gut-busting memoir and a scared-straight manual for the no-future crowd. Sure, The Unseen might be one of the most derivative acts in punk, but these guys rock the Mohawk sans the extensions and Rogaine of their forebears. And if you give them some dusted weed, their trip has a good chance of winding up in So This Is Readin' Too?