Last week, Unknown Mortal Orchestra returned with the new track ‘American Guilt’. The song is supposedly the first single from Ruban Neilson’s band’s upcoming fourth album, rumoured to be titled Sex & Food. It’s the first track we’ve heard from the psych rock/pop group since their 2016 single ‘First World Problem’ – apart from the latest episode in their annual Christmas series, the 28-minute odyssey ‘SB-05’.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s key characteristic is their low-fi dynamic, remaining evident on ‘American Guilt’. On their 2015 album Multi-Love, Neilson and Co. introduced more synths, jangly percussion and piano riffs to compensate for the minimal guitar use. But with ‘American Guilt’, it seems the New Zealand group are heading in a different direction for Sex & Food, with guitars being the main focus.
Beginning with crunchy, fuzzed out guitars that continue to drive the song throughout the duration, it’s a clear signal of the directional change for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It’s an unexpected change and one that doesn’t quite reach the high expectations that the band sets for themselves.
While it still retains Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s low-fi psychedelia, the heavy distorted guitars are a step backward from the songs found on Multi-Love rather than forward. The song plays out for nearly five minutes, yet fails to add anything notable to a common discussion – assuming it’s about the “meathead” President of the United States, Donald Trump.
‘American Guilt’ is an odd choice as the lead single for Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s forthcoming record, but from the group’s track record, there’s no need to fret. They’ll (hopefully) find a way to deliver.
Listen to ‘American Guilt’ below: