When the Canadian indie pop outfit The Unicorns burst onto the international music scene with their charming brand of whimsical psychedelia, they were immediately heralded as future superstars. That prediction didn't quite hold true, as the trend-hopping critics who made these forecasts erroneously attributed a degree of longevity to the band that was shattered when the group dissolved shortly after the release of Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, thus rendering The Unicorns little more than a prelude to Nicholas Diamonds' subsequent rock act The Islands. Nevertheless these critics can be forgiven for their zealous over-hyping of the band, as the tremendous potential exhibited by The Unicorns on their debut suggests that were the existence of the group not prematurely aborted they would doubtless have enjoyed a great deal of success, perhaps not as superstars but certainly as a modest niche ensemble.
The endearingly homebrewed arrangements on Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, particularly the ridiculously low quality keyboards that resemble a child's 'my first synthesizer' set with their glaring lack of instrumental fidelity, recall albums like God Ween Satan- The Oneness, but the overall sound of the band is far closer to a more fanciful, lo-fi version of The Flaming Lips. Like Coyne's legendary indie pioneers, The Unicorns blend mild dissonance with poppy melodies and an underlying affability that isn't diluted by the occasional abrasive sonic texture; more importantly the similarities between the bands also extends to an impressive facility for penning catchy tunes with clever hooks, as well as a refreshing tendency to never takes oneself too seriously.
As one would expect, The Unicorns are decidedly eccentric from a lyrical perspective, from their assertion that 'unicorns are people too' to their ghost fetish that dominates the second, third and fourth tracks. Admittedly Tuff Luff brings in some social commentary, but arriving in the midst of the album's carnival-esque atmosphere it's so incongruous that it can only be treated as a put-on, regardless of whether or not it was intended to be.
From a musical perspective Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? is generally quite strong, but hardly immaculate. The album is ultimately somewhat erratic, with the occasional dose of filler to detract from the overall experience.
Fortunately this padding can easily be overlooked given the caliber of the better tracks. Jellybones is an experimental pop gem, with an intro that deftly negotiates the line between the melodic and the discordant, subsequently segueing into a superb, catchy tune. Inoculate The Innocuous is a multipart mini-epic that rocks harder than anything else on the album, but this relative heaviness never comes at the expense of its array of impressive pop hooks, while I Was Born (A Unicorn) is a delightful pop anthem that radiates a kind of off-kilter innocence that can be interpreted as a kind of tamer, poppier version of Gong or Syd Barrett.
There are certainly moments when things go awry. The coda of Chile Star is more grating than amusing, and Let's Get Known does little to distinguish itself over the course of its brief runtime, but fortunately misfires of this nature are kept to a minimum, and for a band still in its infancy the occasional lapse of quality is something to be expected.
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? ultimately feels quite slight and insubstantial, which is par for the course given that the group's identity is something akin to feigned naiveté and boundless whimsy, but it still limits the impact that the album can have upon the listener. Despite the implied progression from the album's first track (I Don't Wanna Die) to its closing number (Ready To Die), the album seldom feels terribly serious, which makes for a fun if lightweight listen, something that can be enjoyed in the short term but is apt to be forgotten in the long run.
These ephemeral charms are more than enough to make Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? a solid, well-crafted product, betraying tremendous potential that unfortunately was never realized (at least not under the moniker of The Unicorns). The album is by no means a masterpiece, but it doesn't aspire to be, and in the long run it proves resoundingly successful when it comes to each of the goals that it set for itself, ensuring an eminently entertaining listen.