Sunday, September 25, 2005

4 Easy Steps Towards World Domination For United State of Electronica

Thank Jack Smith that La Gurney reads The Austin Chronicle. He (Gurney, that is) calls me up Sat. afternoon and tells me that The AC tells him that United State of Electronica are playing at Emo's...for FREE! Fuk yeah, baby bitch! Not even a big dicked visit from Jeremy Penn could make me refuse such an offer (well...). Anyhoo, Mrs. Gurney, Grigs, John Lennon's grandmother, and I make it past a cute (but kinda mean) door boy (oh, and a murder of HOT are-they-of-age gymnast-lookin types who all booked before the show) just in time for a CRIZAPPY opening band. Forgot the name too. Something like Kaiser Chiefs but with "Whales" in it (Kinship Whales?). Lead singer looked like El Señor Coconut. Did NOT sound like Freddie Mercury (sadly). The sound? Imagine some sort of conceptual electro act (Peaches maybe or for you Montréal gens, Lederhosen Lucille) filtered through rockish bar bandisms. Too guitary. Mais pourquoi? Shit, after that wet fart start, even Leann Rimes (or Palace) coulda cleaned up. (Random bizarre sighting: a rack of clothing under heating lamps [were they edible?] next to the merch table. Not t-shirts but rather, jackets and button-up shirts and such. And a hat bearing the Kinship Whales imprimatur.)

U.S.E. were even better this time than their two SXSW showcases. The audience energy level was a tad low towards the beginning. But that just made the crowd-width wad of cum splattered onto us about two songs before the "IT IS ON!" climax all the more disco-rock euphoric. These clearly hard-touring Seattlites have their Donna Summer down. The loud guitars propel the disco forward and the disco always reminds the guitars that their ultimate role is boogie oogie oogie. "Hot Stuff"-"Bad Girls"-"Hot Stuff"-"Bad Girls." Thesis-antithesis-thesis-antithesis-SYNTHESIS!

As Eric Weisbard pointed out in an early 1990s Voice piece on Rhino and cheese theory, the synthesis that classic disco achieved was welding camp sophistication to Hi-NRG. You could have it both ways (often at the same time): the camp sophistication insured that the music would be suitable for posing to (or simply luxuriating in its ever upwardly mobile production) while the Hi-NRG lit your buttcheeks on fuckin' fire. U.S.E. unquestionably got the buttcheek lighting down. But they trade the camp for a laid-back, even hippie vibe (which is probably why their music reminds me ever so vaguely of goa trance except that it's not, ya know, horribly shitty piddle). So you could bob your head from side to side with the dazed smile of someone who just taught the world to sing AND/OR you could hop around like Smiley The Potato Chip (whoever the hell that was - I seem to remember him/it referenced to in an Creem caption accompanying a photo of B-52 Fred Schneider). I did both myself.

Obviously, this band needs to take over the planet. So here are a few modest proposals for world domination:

1. Get more verse-chorus-versey without sacrificing each song's expansiveness.

Not that the songs are sooo expansive. The lengths correspond to Top 40 norms and hooks poke out to say hello. But often, the ferocious groove threatens to overwhelm the song structures that are already there. So maybe a production that will bring those structures out a bit more, oui?

2. Channel The Doobie Brothers.

A crucial source for both the laid-backness and the funk. As I mentioned to La Gurney after the show, it was no accident that The Doobs were the one country-rock band recontextualized for the dancefloor in the 1990s (I have a bootleg 12" featuring a nifty houseification of "Long Train Runnin'"). They simply boogied better than Poco, Firefall or The Eagles. And if U.S.E. can come up with something that sums up a sexual clime as perfectly as "What A Fool Believes," they could knock Kanye West off his number one perch (or at least inspire Michael McDonald to stop dressing like your plumber).

3. Release a live album.

Never thought I'd live to say this about anyone but they sound much better live than on disc. Not entirely sure why either. For sure, the visual of a group of people who definitely didn't sit at the same lunch table in high school helps. And missing from the disc is the scandalously popist drum machine that keeps beating in between songs. Also some chaos - it's too clean. I know the good times don't always travel over to the live album. But it's worth a shot.

4. Pick a leader.

This one saddens me because what's so beautiful about U.S.E. is that they seem like a true collective - the burnouts and the AV geeks and the theatre queens and the foreign exchange students and the spazzes and the class clowns united on one stage. But the Hot 100 has traditionally had little use for everybody is a star. So pick a star, preferably someone who can sing like Donna Summer (or at least fake it like that great faker).

Implement now!


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