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The United States Of America - 'The United States Of America'

Album: The United States Of America

Artist: The United States Of America

Release Date: March 6, 1968

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Length: 0:37:07

Label: Columbia

Producer: David Rubinson

Rolling Stone Top 500 (2012): N/A

Rolling Stone Top 500 (2020): N/A

1,001 Album Book: Yes

This is what a clown suffering from ADHD sounds like...

The only studio record released by the group The United States Of America which, upon release, spent nine weeks on the charts and peaked at #181 on the US Billboard 200. Although it charted, it remains an overall unknown record that features uncommon psychedelic production techniques.

The album opens up with an almost circus-like sound, which is fitting given the first track is titled "The American Metaphysical Circus". The song opens up with very clown-like flutes and a piano but quickly evolves to an overwhelming jumble of noise that continues in a roller coaster kind of way throughout. The ups and downs within the vocal performance in terms of the effect applied to the lead vocal screams psychedelic, but overall the song is far from musical. The jumbled mess barely resembles a song structure except for the drums playing normal patterns with tom fills and syncopated cymbal crashes, but other than that, the song is just a wall of noise, which is a very fitting sound for the circus.

If the sound of dying animals is something you're into, then the second track is something you may be interested in listening to. The song "Hard Coming Love" starts off with a rapid increase in tempo from the first song and for the first few seconds seems to be a solid piece, but quickly escalates to screeches, worthy of blowing out your ear drums and having the hairs stand straight up. Luckily, the rest of the song, once the vocals come in, is more entertaining. The track features a punching bass guitar, frantic and emotive drum patterns, and a trance-inducing style of vocals. While sections of the song are good, the negatives certainly outweigh the positives and make it overall difficult to enjoy. The overdone noise and the overpowering random sounds keep an otherwise decent song from being appreciated.

"The Garden Of Earthly Delights" is easily the best song on the album. The random sounds actually fit the song well, the musicianship is all there and the innovative and imaginative ideas scream through every note. Although it does seem like a sci-fi song with the laser screeches, this song is structurally the most solid track on the record and features the lead vocalist, Dorothy Moskowitz, in a way without a massive amount of effects applied on her voice.

In terms of avant-garde, untraditional music, this album is at the top of its game. The cartoony sounds exuding from tracks like "I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife for You, Sugar" is somewhat humorous to indulge your ears with. The sheer amount of different sounds in the album is truly impressive, even though the execution isn't very solid. Songs change quickly on this album from a Gregorian chant-like sound in "Where Is Yesterday" to a crunchy quick rock sound in "Coming Down". The best parts of the record are the feel of the bass guitar and drum set as they play shockingly complex patterns, especially given the free-for-all sound of The United States Of America.

Sadly, a lot of this album is more annoying to listen to than it is exciting. The hints of greatness are there, but sadly behind a wall of tinted glass of displeasure. The group suffers from having too many ideas in their heads, but their talent isn't able to match those ideas. Give these songs to a group like Pink Floyd for example, and this could easily be a legendary record. I suppose that is why The United States Of America only released this album and are a one-and-done group. Granted, I did enjoy listening to it surprisingly, but not in a way that is like "Let me put this record on repeat" but more so in a mocking way. I'm not sure I can recommend this record, unless you're a very big fan of the composer John Cage (one of the most famous 20th century avant-garde composers), in which case you may get a strange enjoyment out of the randomness...

Favorite Songs: "The Garden Of Earthly Delights"

Least Favorite Songs: "The American Metaphysical Circus"

Production Quality:

  • Mix = 2/10 (Horribly mixed, notes hurt the ears, overwhelm the brain and instruments/sounds overpower each other)

  • Innovation = 10/10 (An incredibly innovative and different record, given all the strangeness)

Songwriting Quality:

  • Arrangement = 4/10 (Somewhat decent arrangement but then certain sections fall very flat)

  • Lyricism = 5/10

Instrumentation Quality:

  • Vocal Timbre = 6.5/10 (A nice voice throughout but with effects it sounds awful)

  • Instrumental Timbre = 5.5/10 (Overall a very annoying mix of sounds but the feel of the drums and bass guitar save this category from being much lower)

  • Group Chemistry = 4/10 (Rarely playing together)

Overall Likability:

  • My Personal Rating = 3/10 (I think you can understand this)

Overall Rating: 4.5/10

Any confusion on how the rating is weighted/calculated, please look at my "About" page.

Remember this is all my opinion! Let me know if you agree, disagree or have any comments!

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