The Units – Digital Stimulation (Futurismo, June 105)

Bleepy chord progressions and obsessive love affairs, fast cars, fuchsia lipstick and the pains of the ‘modern’ everyday. Lovers of American synthpunk will be glad to see Futurismo reissue Digital Stimulation, the first album from Frisco act The Units, nicely cleaned up (the necessary rawness of their sound is preserved) and with its original post-dada artwork from 1980. Many long-term fans will welcome this record after a more curated archival release from 2009 on Community Library, but this reissue of Digital Stimulation is also a chance for the new listener of The Units to get a taste of a band whose output was generally more complex than it is usually given credit.

Less glamorous than Futurisk and much less insane than Group Xex, The Units might seem to be of a lesser substance. Re-hearing Digital Stimulation allows us to take stock of the sonic agenda of the band’s work which extends beyond their well-performed post-punk swagger: we get to appreciate the dreamier shores of the complicated and beautiful “Cowboy”, the haunting, thick, classic synths of “Passion or Patterns” and the hellish post-punk of the terribly sexy “Warm Moving Bodies”. Both “Go” and “Mission” are a sort of firework out of repression: ‘turn off the sentences / turn on the senses’. Go on then.

This is cheeky, turbocharged, youthful stuff, but 35 years later it’s worth a deeper listen. As someone wrote in Sounds Magazine at the time, “My one prayer is that they’re not given the kiss of death by the futurists. They deserve much more than to be chewed up and spat back out by a bunch of mindless clothes-horses”. Who are the futurists now? Isn’t it funny how risks persist?