The United States of America – The United States of America

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Release Date: 03/06/68

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The United States of America were an American band from NYC registered to the Communist Party, were easily the most experimental of their psychedelic contemporaries. USA are to Death Grips, what The Beatles are to Kendrick Lamar. In other words, for those who don’t get modern hip-hop references, USA were the one’s bubbling over in the underground, pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible, while The Beatles were pushing the needle further out in the mainstream.

There were several other aspects of USA that set them apart from their contemporaries: USA did not use electric guitars. They stuck to instruments not conventionally found in rock music, such as violins. They also featured some of the earliest uses of synthesizers and modulators in rock-based music. 60’s psychedelia had a serious dearth of female vocalists as well, not so with USA. If you get the earlier Death Grips reference, you’d also understand that this indicates USA’s music is considerably more challenging than one would typically expect from the genre. It gets pretty noisy – the early synthesizers can get a little dissonant. This is not to say the music’s completely inaccessible. There is a strong effort to create memorable vocal hooks. Some songs even get pretty poppy, such as “Stranded in Time.” Unfortunately, this is the only release the band managed.

This is a unique album in the canon of psychedelia. It simultaneously sounds very ‘60s, yet defiantly stands apart from what’s going on around it, which I suspect is partially due to them being from NYC, where the psychedelic scene wasn’t nearly as strong. Few bands could offer the level of atmosphere a song like “Where is Yesterday?” could. It was cutting edge at the time and still features oft-unimitated sounds.

Highlights: “The American Metaphysical Circus,” “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar,” “Where is Yesterday?,” “Stranded in Time”
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
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