These United States – [Album]

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Push them hard enough, and every musician will begrudgingly admit that it's possible to call forward potent, powerful and provocative emotional states on command. That's not an easy thing to admit because listeners need that kayfabe to be believable; fans want to believe that the laughter, tears, hopes, fears, aggression and everything else that an artist represents is something that – at east in an abstract way – fans could find within themselves and relate to, and so connect with. It's a very effective device; while it might sound crass to contend it, most musicians are also excellent actors who can believably recreate all of the potent emotional poses that they struck when the tapes rolled and captured it the first time – but the one thing which is impossible to fake is the excitement and anticipation which comes with a band knowing they're on the cusp of breaking through. That knowledge is amplified by the fact that the band knows they're holding an album's worth of the knock-down, drag-out best songs they've ever written, and those who take the chance to listen to it are going to get an earful which wins everyone over and makes the band superstars. In those moments, it's possible to hear a bit of a crack of excitement in a singer's voice and the joyous/playful spitting of some syllables in his vocal delivery. In those moments too, background vocals seem to be delivered with a little extra gusto and the band is just a fraction more electric when they play. Moments like that are pretty exciting, and that's the point These United States are at on their new self-titled album (their fifth full-length) – one listen proves it.

That the band knows they could be the next big thing in rock n' roll is evident from the moment singer Jesse Elliott opens his mouth right at the beginning of “Dead & Gone” and excitedly drawls out the words, “When we're dead and gone, I guarantee they'll wish they knew us” to open the record. There, with the sort of grandeur which caused thousands of people to fall in love with The Flaming Lips (read: a little drugged, a little playful, a little sweet and with the chops to present it all without just sounding sloppy and derivative) and also with the sort of gypsy soul power to make everyone who hears it feel a bit of warmth, sunshine and love, These United States vacuum-seal all that they are right now into a perfect three-minute-and-ten-second pop song which is guaranteed to dazzle listeners. In this beginning, everyone shows off a little – drummer Aaron Latos fires solar flares of brilliant percussion at every opportunity, J. Tom Hnatow's lapsteel is elastic-bombastic like the sound of “Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” at the beginning of a Warner Brothers cartoon in all the right ways, guitarist Justin Craig and bassist Anna Morsett knock out sidewalk soul rhythms fit to knock your block off and Elliott chews on it all with his rock n' mock soul sensibilities like scenery in a movie It's an energizing start and the band doesn't slack off after they've made that ground; they keep pushing through songs like “Born Young” (which sounds like the best song The Strokes could have written, were they focused more on feel and less on fashion), “Miss Underground” (which stretches the ban's Flaming Lips influences a little further), “Two Gods” (behold! A valid answer to the desperate lack of soul found in pop lately) and “The Park” (which sounds beautiful and scenic more than it does lush and green, but the results are so good that there's no good reason to question it) and ends up totally winning listeners over because, as ambitious and high-concept as the album so obviously is, These United States never slip or succumb to the temptation to become “the band of aesthetes” they very easily could be and keep things reasonably simple for listeners; there's no big-dollar production nonsense here, just a bit of practical magic and awe-inspiring moments borne of fine composition.

In the end as “Never Stop Falling” fades out, listeners will discover that they've found a new rock band to love in These United States. With nods to alt- and indie rock set strongly in the mix but a sound truly all their own, this band is a rarity in rock at the moment: they're original and know how to play to that strength rather than excuse themselves for it. All they need is the right opportunity to hit a whole lot of people all at once so they can take over the world.

Further Reading:
These United States – Lee's Palace – Toronto, Canada – 22/04/12 – [Live]



These United States' self-titled album will be released on June 12, 2012 via United Interests Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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