MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009|
Hopefully not to follow in the footsteps of other under appreciated alt-country gems, These United States have cranked up the juice with their third album, Everything Touches Everything. Drawing from Americana champions Wilco and even The Hold Steady, TUS rip through lyricism and electric guitars like shooting beer cans in the woods of Kentucky. Add the fact that this is the third full length in 18 months, and you add prolific to the list of promising qualities found with the fivesome.
These United States know how to build tracks. From spunky ballads like "The Secret Door" to the rev-tastic opening "I Want You To Keep Everything," each cut capitalizes on complicating texture. "Everything" begins with thumping bass, and slowly adds riffs, rhythms and tambourine so organically, you barely notice them joining the fray. "Door" does this as well, taking a drifting rhythm section progression and layering licks. And the lyrics 'aint bad either; "I am my executioner/my death is not the final word/my life is not some secret door." The boys wring some serious, some playful imagery from their splashy tunes.
Jesse Elliot has been met with criticism for his all-too-obvious allusion material and his optimistic view of "these United States" as a unified musical unit, lumping dozens of genres into one mesh of 'indie' music. And naming a record Everything Touches Everything certainly doesn't defend against these claims. However, the focus here is definitely not confused, and the allusions are not even close to overbearing. Moreover, the musical literacy here is filed under alt-country, and rarely seems to encroach on other styles. He is the captain of this ship (can you tell I like "Secret Door" a bit?), and he doesn't steer it any farther than the front porch of American swagger-twang.
These United States aren't pretending to be anything but swell songwriters, born and bred in America and drawing from it's rich music styles to form a unifying sound. They are for fans of bands like the Jayhawks, but they are contributing an important leg to our musical culture. They're helping to create the front line of a new hard-folk regiment of today's neo-Americana, and considering the influx of Canadian and European imported talent lately, we're going to need it. -joe puglisi