Challenge for a Civilized Society

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Challenge for a Civilized Society
Challenge for a Civilized Society.jpg
Studio album by Unwound
Released January 13, 1998
Recorded August 1997
Genre Post-hardcore, noise rock, math rock, art punk, post-punk
Length 46:27
Label Kill Rock Stars
Producer Steve Fisk
Unwound chronology
Challenge for a Civilized Society
A Single History: 1991–1997

Challenge for a Civilized Society is the sixth studio album by the American post-hardcore band Unwound, released on January 13, 1998 by Kill Rock Stars. It was produced by Steve Fisk and recorded from August 1, 1997 to August 15, 1997 at John and Stu's in Seattle, Washington. The album received positive reviews from critics.

Recording and release[edit]

Challenge for a Civilized Society was written in "a little more than a month" after Unwound took a break of a year and a half without writing any songs.[1] The album was produced by the band's long-time collaborator, Steve Fisk, and recorded from August 1, 1997 to August 15, 1997 at John and Stu's in Seattle, Washington.[2] According to singer and guitarist Justin Trosper, "With Challenge, we tried to expand our studio sound more than anything. The song structures are tighter and the album contains some of our best songs, but as a whole I think it's not our best album. It was less inspired than the others. Steve Fisk's production is really awesome. He does things that most other people would never think of. I think most producers are wankers with no ideas except commercial potential. Challenge just makes me want to make an album that goes even further out, to really question the whole process even more. What is a record? What is production? What's the audience? What's an artist, and so on?"[3]

The album was released on January 13, 1998 by the independent record label Kill Rock Stars, which also released the band's previous four albums.[4] The album cover features a photo of Boston's stained-glass Mapparium.[5] The album spent a total of 16 weeks on the CMJ Radio 200 Chart for 1998, peaking at No. 4.[6] The band toured extensively in support of the album.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[8]
NME 7/10 stars[9]

Challenge for a Civilized Society received positive reviews from music critics. AllMusic reviewer Jason Ankeny stated that the album "is a study in extremes, as the group's noise assault reaches new pinnacles of raw abrasion."[8] Similarly, NME observed that the album "uses the clenched rigour of emo-hardcore as a springboard rather than, as is so often the case, a constricting ideology. So tense little hate-songs like 'Laugh Track' and 'Mile Me Deaf' expand into tricksy, emotional guitar flurries plainly inspired by Sonic Youth, but, crucially, never lose their basic vicious power."[9] Richard Martin, writing for CMJ New Music Monthly, highlighted the album's sinister mood, concluding "the tone on most of these ten tracks remains foreboding, but this consistent, inventive band rewards those willing to accept its Challenge."[10]

Track listing[edit]

All music composed by Unwound.

No. Title Length
1. "Data" 3:33
2. "Laugh Track" 3:13
3. "Meet the Plastics" 3:12
4. "The World Is Flat" 4:34
5. "Sonata for Loudspeakers" 5:20
6. "Mile Me Deaf" (UK and Japanese Bonus Track) 2:23
7. "NO TECH!" 1:42
8. "Side Effects of Being Tired" (Listed as "Untitled 3" on UK and Japanese versions) 9:00
9. "Lifetime Achievement Award" 5:09
10. "What Went Wrong" (Listed as "Untitled 2" on UK and Japanese versions) 8:34
11. "XLNT" (Unlisted hidden track on US version) 2:05
12. "The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train" (UK and Japanese Bonus Track) 10:11


  • Justin Trosper – Guitar, vocals, saxophone, Univox beatbox, synths
  • Sara Lund – Drums and percussion
  • Vern Rumsey – Bass, vocals on "Side Effects of Being Tired/Untitled 3", Fender Rhodes, EPS
  • Steve Fisk – Producer, also played Ensoniq EPS, Harmonium, Hammond M-3
  • Dave Carter – Trumpet
  • Kip Beelman – Engineer, August 1-14
  • Kevin Suggs – Engineer, August 15
  • Virginia Benson – Photography
  • Mastered at SEA by Roger Seibel


  1. ^ Allison Linn (1998-01-09). "Unwound winds up on tour". The Register-Guard: 5. Retrieved 2015-08-01. 
  2. ^ Challenge for a Civilized Society (CD booklet). Unwound. Olympia, Washington: Kill Rock Stars. 1998. 
  3. ^ Piero Scaruffi. "Beautiful Noise". Insound. Archived from the original on 2001-06-03. Retrieved 2001-06-03. 
  4. ^ "Unwound". Kill Rock Stars. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  5. ^ "CMJ Radio 200 '98". CMJ New Music Monthly. 57: 11. January 1999. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  6. ^ Tobi Vail (2013-06-21). "Interview: Unwound". eMusic. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  7. ^ a b Jason Ankeny. "Challenge for a Civilized Society". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  8. ^ a b "Challenge For A Civilized Society". NME. 1999-01-15. Archived from the original on 2014-06-26. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  9. ^ Richard Martin (March 1998). "Challenge For A Civilized Society". CMJ New Music Monthly (55): 46. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 

External links[edit]