The Presidents Of The United States Of America – These Are The Good Times People

Whew! What a trip, hours and hours of driving, over 600 pictures taken (about 100 good ones, not a bad average really for a concert), and two incredible bands rocking the world and beyond.

Well, I’m back now, only to discover that my Zune doesn’t know how to sync with my computer to let the thing know that my subscription is indeed NOT expired and that I’m still paying my $15 a month, so now my Zune won’t play my freebie downloads. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to fix that when I get a chance, but until then it’s time to talk about an album that I actually ripped from the CD myself, since that’s all I can listen to without a bunch of bother.

Hey, remember The Presidents Of The United States Of America? Did you know they came out with an album last year? Well, here it is:

Sometimes a photograph can convey a sense of urgency surprisingly wellSo exactly how are PUSA doing nowadays, coming out with an album nearly 15 years after their inaugural (eh heh) release? The critics would tell you not-a-so-good, but I say it’s-a-plenty-good.

Of course, of course, it’s not the kind of album the self-titled was, but I’d say it’s probably better than II, but only by virtue of having a little more substance and more “interesting” material than just goofy, lo-fi fun. Indeed, the band never really went back to the kind of chunky sound they used for their debut, and thus this album, like the others, is too polished to have that sort of character going for it. This isn’t to the music’s detriment though, if you’re a PUSA fan, this album should be great, if not a little surprising.

We start off with a song that is kind of “standard fare”, if there is such a thing, with a really catchy subsonic number called “Mixed Up S.O.B.“, which features a video directed by Weird Al (being that, despite him parodying their already humorous style, those guys are the best of friends). The song itself is catchy, fast, cleverly written, and it all boils down to a great line, “She’s a mixed up son of a bitch”. The song’s a little hard to follow, lyrically, because the character of the song dies in the first verse, but the song just keeps on going. It’s like a country song in reverse!

Speaking of a country song, there’s a really great, largely acoustic number on this album called “More Bad Times” (a wonderful counter to the album’s positive-thinking title), which isn’t so much “country”, but I don’t know, it reminds me of something that could be a country song. Here are some lyrics:

You never had rabies
You never gained weight
You never drank poison
You watched what you ate
You never came home with a terrible scar
You never so much as put a scratch on my car
You never got measles
You never got gout
You never got dizzy
And you never fell out
You never suggested we all play charades
You never picked up any live hand grenades

You twisted your ankle
I carried you
You got a divorce
So I married you
You fell off a cliff
So I buried you
I wish there were more bad times to see you through
I wish there were more bad times

It has it all! A couplet rhyming scheme (I think), lyrics about how great this person is, with of course a totally non-chalant mention of the same person dying, and then the little redemptive line in wishing there were more “bad times”. I’m quite impressed with this song, as far away from the typical “PUSA” sound as it strays (for goodness’ sakes, it’s got vocal harmony that’s actually really good in parts!)

Following that is a musically confusing song about falling in love with a miserable French nihilist (“French Girl”), which is also kind of great. That is then followed by an actual country song if there ever were one in “Truckstop Butterfly”, which hearkens back to the oldest, most treasured Presidents tradition: making allegories about love by singing about insects. It’s like coming home, really it is.

Another thing you might have noticed about this album, even if I didn’t mention it or anything, is that The Presidents have a different guitarist now. Long-time veteran (read: sole user) of the “guitbass”, Dave Dederer has been replaced by a usurper called Andrew McKeag. Andrew is credited as being a “guitbass” player, but I don’t know, it sounds an awful like a real guitar at points. I guess I still have a problem imagining how these modified instruments are supposed to work. Either way, a song like “Ghosts Are Everywhere” contains some really good instrumentation for the fact that apparently there are only 5 strings being played between the 2 guitbass/bassitarists in the group.

Just in case you thought that balloon on the album cover was some kind of accident, there’s another little ballad I quite like called “Loose Balloon”, which tells the story of a balloon that a kid loses and the kid cries about it like a moron, and the song explores pretty much all the thoughts about a loose balloon that someone who was possibly high could come up with (space travel makes an appearance, if you didn’t know).

There are actually a whole lot of songs on this album, and pretty much all of them are good. I will say that, even on an album I would consider “touching a lot of bases (basses?)”, PUSA doesn’t mind making an album of 14 songs that kind of blend together if you aren’t paying close attention. Well, songs like the very last one, “Deleter”, are hard to ignore. “Deleter” is an over-the-top funk/soul number featuring a female backup singer who takes over lead vocals at one point (her name’s Fysah Thomas, for those keeping score), a horn section, and a really kickin’ beat, and the song’s 3 minutes are about half of what I would have liked to hear, man what a kickin’ tune.

Either way, don’t listen to those critical fogeys, this album is a lot of fun, and its only flaw is that most of us have heard the band’s amazing debut and yeah this album isn’t a unique and exciting artifact of popular music like the debut, so sue it, right? It’s like the album’s cover says, these are the good times, people, go enjoy life and music and concerts and fancy cameras and fun while you can! Don’t worry about all this “well it isn’t as good as it used to be” stuff, it’s all good except when it’s bad, and even when it’s bad, it could get worse. I don’t even know what this diatribe’s about, I had better cut it off before I start making sense. Until then!

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