These United States is a perpetual disappointment. Here is a band that has all the right ingredients for a good country-rock act—-one foot in Washington, another in Kentucky; Jesse Elliott’s disinterested yowl; skilled musicians, and, lest we forget, blog buzz—-and yet, this new album, and their last one, are absolutely yawn-inducing.
For the record: I am not saying this as some scuzzy, shoeless shut-in who ripped What Lasts (out today!) for free. No, I took a break out of my busy day, opened iTunes, and I paid $9.99 for this album. Nor am I saying this as someone who only recently came to country music, or alt-country, or whatever the plaid-shirted ‘tards in your yoga class are calling it. I played with cow shit before it was cool for hipsters to walk around smelling like they slept in a dumpster. I got rodeo day—-not president’s day—-off from school. I have eaten bull testicles, with barbecue sauce and without barbecue sauce.
So believe me when I tell you that good country music should make you move, rev your engine, dance, go out for a grape snow cone/drop her off early, but not go home, etc., and that this album makes me want to take a fucking nap in a house undergoing termite treatment.
Why does These United States do this? I don’t know. I’ve never spoken to Elliott or his mates, and I doubt I will now. This being such a terrible review and all. I have a theory that hipsters demand really boring music; music that they can listen to while they smoke opium or write in their diaries, but I’ll spare you the conjecture and just give it to you straight, right after I take a quick nap.
Let’s dial it down for a minute. There is one really good song on What Lasts. It is called “Water and Wheat” and it sounds exactly like “I Want You to Keep Everything,” which is the best track on TUS’ previous record, Everything Touches Everything. Maybe you think I am going to slam TUS for being derivative? Nope. I don’t even care that “Water and Wheat” has the same rhythm as “I Want You to Keep Everything,” because now that this song is on, I am too busy jumping up and down in my office, pumping my fist in the air, and freaking out on the guy who sits next to me.
“Water and Wheat” is so good, in fact, that I will probably buy a ticket to TUS’ next show, even though I hate live music. (I just accidentally let another song from this album play, one that is not “Water and Wheat,” and now I need another nap.)
This isn’t to say that the entire rest of the album is shit: “Ever Make You Mine” has a decent Doobie Brothers-style breakdown; “Life&Death She&I” features some sweet-sounding steel guitar and Elliott dueting with Dawn Landes (a Kentucky native, occasional vocalist in Hem, and wife of Josh Ritter).
But otherwise? This album is boring as hell. That said, I’ll probably buy the next one, and the one after that—-ad infinitum!—-in the hopes that Elliott will have figured out what, exactly, lasts.