Matt Whipkey is doing something new.

The Omaha singer-songwriter’s history suggests your usual alt-country, Americana and folk path. He’s put out a multitude of rock ’n’ roll records. He’s opened some shows for Dwight Yoakam. Many of Whipkey’s performances are hours-long acoustic sets.

But with his new project, he’s made a hard left turn into punk.

Whipkey’s new band, Unexplained Death, is an interesting project. It’s technically not even a new band, considering it features the same players as last year’s rock-folk record “Driver.” It’s also out on a special cassette release. And it’s most definitely not the same style he’s ever done.

Perhaps most interesting: The new material has its germination in Whipkey’s previous stuff.

The track “Fred, You’re Dead” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s late father, Fred — was originally a haunting acoustic guitar and harmonica affair with breathy vocals. It came out on “Driver,” but Whipkey re-recorded it as a screeching punk track with a machine-gun guitar melody and shouted vocals.

That was the first song Whipkey recorded as Unexplained Death, and the rest of the project followed quickly.

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It’s the fastest he ever put out an album, he told me. And it was largely recorded at his house. In true punk style, it was mostly written, rehearsed and recorded in his basement.

Each track has a punkier sound, and the political nature of that song flowed into others. You can tell by the track names: “Four More Years,” “Think For Yourself” (a George Harrison cover) and those named after politicians, including “Benny and the Sass” and “Moscow Mitch.”

I listened to the 12-song, 31-minute album and was fascinated. (It will be interesting to see how they flesh out a full set at Friday’s album release party.)

The guitars are blasting. The vocals are shouted. The drums absolutely hammer. It’s more aggressive than anything he’s ever played. And faster. Most every track is over in less than three minutes. One is less than two.

Though the album’s message often isn’t positive, it ends on a hopeful note. Sounding like latter-day Clash, “Love Brother” asks for understanding: The chorus shouts, “nothing but love for you brother.”

And that leads me to the release itself. To showcase his new stuff, Whipkey went with a retro format: cassette.

Yes, it’s out on cassette tape. The album is not and will not be available on CD or vinyl. Whipkey wasn’t even sure how much of it will be released digitally, in an effort to, y’know, get people to buy the music.

(You can pick up the cassette at Friday’s show or at a listening party earlier Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Hi-Fi House. Buy a cassette there, and you’ll get free admission to the concert.)

And in true punk-rock fashion, each cassette was assembled in DIY fashion. The white cassettes are stamped with Unexplained Death’s logo in bright red, and the packaging is made from actual vintage cassettes. Whipkey appropriated the packaging from George Strait, Phil Collins and other famous artists and went to work on the inserts, gouging out their eyes and stamping every page with that bright red logo.

It all makes for a very, very cool product and an attention-grabbing release.

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Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey is the entertainment editor and critic, covering music, movies, video games, comic books and lots more. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

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