‘Uniontown’ by Chamberlain
From the album Fate’s Got A Driver (1996)
This week we’re visiting the Midwest of the USA, home to one of the (or several of the) pocket scenes of 90s underground, what purists would probably call emo (second-wave, please). Bands such as Braid and American Football (Champaign, Illinois), The Get Up Kids (Kansas City, Missouri), Cursive and Desaparecidos (Omaha, Nebraska), Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc (Chicago, Illinois) and The Promise Ring (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), to name but a few (and be pretty Kinsella-heavy), all came out of this 12-state region.
Saying the above names to people might raise a nod or an enthusiastic and draining story about how much ‘A Dozen Roses’ means to them every now and again but say ‘Chamberlain’ (Indianapolis/Bloomington, Indiana) and I’d say that you’d probably get less of a response. I’m all about bringing new stuff to people’s ears and one very interesting, and quite unique, thing about Fate’s Got A Driver is that it was originally recorded by a band called Split Lip, a seminal emo-core band from Indianapolis. Of course, I’m being very dramatic here as Split Lip and Chamberlain are the same band; the only difference is in the name and a change of direction to something a little more melodic, ‘Uniontown’ perfectly captures that change. The band’s Split Lip origins as a slightly more hardcore-leaning band comes across all over Fate’s Got A Driver and, in ‘Uniontown’, is represented by the guitar riff, which drives the whole song, chugging its way through and keeping everything in place.
Faithful readers of my weekly missive may note that I very often zoom in on one aspect of a song and talk about it at length, maintaining that it is the best thing that I have ever heard… this week is no different. The one thing that really sticks this song into my head is the breakdown, where the aforementioned chugging guitar riff falls back into the mix, giving way to something far looser and building into a vocal refrain containing a genius piece of lyric writing. I was so taken aback by it the first time that I heard it that I immediately skipped back to listen again, and again, and again.
It moved to me like music through a room and now, now I live for song / have heart and hang the past, quiet the softer side.
It’s also worth noting that buried deep in the mix, in the left channel, is a really nice piece of guitar work that complements the refrain perfectly, and all it is a little hammer-on-pull-off somewhere under ‘live for song’. It. Is. Perfect.
The lyrics of the song seem to connect to thoughts of being young in a big city, facing the challenges of what to do next (‘liv[ing] for song’?) whilst trying to escape from the ‘warehouse rooves’ where ‘we shudder ‘neath that sword’. Wikipedia also tells me that Indianapolis is where the first ‘union station’ was opened, so, conjecturally, I’m going to say that that is where the title comes from and therefore validates my reading of the lyrics. I mean, maybe I’m reading too far into this but I am an English graduate so I’m predisposed to that sort of thing.
Bit of a long one this week, I got slightly carried away by just how much I love this song, I hope you guys will too.