Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Album Review: These United States – Crimes

I haven’t had the pleasure of his acquaintance for all that long, but ever since we met I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Jesse Elliott has his finger on a pulse the rest of us haven’t quite cottoned onto yet. That sense of otherworldly wisdom isn’t merely confined to conversations with the good sir, either. The music of Elliott’s These United States serves as a testament to what he, and the other madcap members of TUS, knows, and what the rest of us are still searching for. The missing link, perhaps? Yes, that’s probably overdoing it just a shade, but boiling it down to bare-bones basics this is a band that knows how to make a damn fine album. Heck, make that two damn fine albums. You see, they only just released their debut mere months ago, but I guess the band just figured there’s no harm in releasing another one.

Mostly DC-based These United States already impressed me with their first album, A Picture Of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden, which I sure do love a whole lot, but I’d opine that Crimes, in addition to being way less of a mouthful to say, one-ups its predecessor musically-speaking. Whereas A Picture… was a bit more folkily floaty and ethereal (and yes, too fleeting), Crimes is more rooted in earthly ways and has a smidge more of the rocking going on (and it’s longer!). There’s also a lot of this sort of feel of olde time rusticity draped across the duration of the album, as if we were all gathered round on someone’s front porch, breathing slightly-smoky air and watching the sun dip into the horizon while the sky vibrantly burns violet and peach, drinking moonshine by the bottle and hootin’ and hollerin’ until dawn.

Naturally, it’s a dandydoo of a record from start to finish, but I do have a few songs that have found themselves given favorite status. My (current) favorite track, and in my mind one of These United State’s absolute best songs to date, “Study the Moon”, is one of Elliott’s finest dreamy, silken, dew-heavy lyrical spider webs (“According to the big blue ox/I should just look up, Paul”), backed by gentle guitars immediately conjuring up a dark, deeply starred country night. My other (current) favorite, “Those Low Country Girls”, conjures up the ghost of one of my favorite Skynyrd songs, “Gimme Three Steps” (minus the gun-toting boyfriend, of course). It’s short, sweet, sassy, and like the band itself it’s immediately irresistible. And lest I forget, Crimes has already produced a bona fide radio hit (at least, I sure do hear it on WOXY all the time), the rambling, catchy as all get-out romp known as “Get Yourself Home (In Search of the Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous)”. “It’s a wicked world,” forsooths the good Mr. Elliott, and how right he is. But These United States has made it a bit more enjoyable, and, dare I even say it, a wee bit more wicked.



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