When Geoff Rickly unveiled his United Nations side project in 2008, it was unclear whether we were supposed to consider it a serious commentary on the State of Things or simply the sound of aging hardcore vets enjoying the freedom from scrutiny their full-time gigs outgrew long ago. Now that they’ve shed the Reagan masks and survived a couple potential lawsuits — from the United Nations itself, who forced the super group to take its Facebook page down, and the Beatles, whose Abbey Road cover was incinerated by the KLF’s James Cauty on a swiftly banned United Nations sleeve — the answer appears to be…complicated.
As Rickly has freely admitted in interviews, United Nations started as a simple tribute to cult screamo bands like Orchid and Reversal of Man, and its lineup had a loose, open-door policy that made it unclear who were actual members, outside of the former Thursday frontman and, for a brief period, Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo. The Next Four Years drops a stable quartet of storm troopers on the frontlines alongside Rickly, however, producing an LP that could actually land on the year-end lists of proper metal publications. “This is serious business,” Rickly sing-speaks toward the end of the album’s first track, answering our earlier question in a roundabout way. He then spends most of the next half hour screeching like a grindcore singer, discrediting the dopiness of song titles like “Fuck the Future,” “United Nations Find God” and “Meanwhile on Main Street.”
Meanwhile, Rickly’s love of subversive art manifests in a way most people will sadly miss: As suggested by a limited box-set pressing, The Next Four Years is meant to be consumed like a time capsule, featuring recently “unearthed” recordings that chart United Nations’s growth from the spring of 1981 to the fall of 2016. So the first four songs is their ‘demo’, the next four represent a couple 7-inches, and the final triptych at the end is their “Godspeed You! Black Emperor phase.” I shit you not; Rickly explained it all in an interview here. The joke’s on him though, because the album’s cheeky, self-mythologizing framework is ultimately unnecessary. The music is vital enough on its own — a potent sucker punch to anyone who found Thursday too “soft” — although judging by the way Rickly’s gears are about to shift to a new post-punk band with the Lostprophets guys who aren’t convicts, The Next Four Years may not be a time capsule after all. It may be a eulogy, filed right when the group’s just getting started.