U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:8 Release Date:2018-02-16
U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited

When you think of protest music, depending on your age, your first thoughts might be either the simple, strident pleadings of folk or the beating urban intensity of rap. Either way, I doubt your thoughts took you to the glitter ball shallowness of disco. Well, dust off your silk shirt and polyester slacks chum, because the latest (sixth) studio album from U.S. Girls, a musical project from the multitalented artist Meg Remy, titled In A Poem Unlimited, does exactly that. Now, to be fair, it isn’t all Studio 54 redux. Yes, Remy’s disco diva falsetto sets the tone, but musically, there is some variety afoot. Beneath it all, however, are sharp, cutting lyrics that take on a wealth of issues.

Take the caustic “Rage of Plastics,” for example. Squawky saxophones bookend a r’n’b melody while she coos about the legacy of petroleum and it’s many seeds of environmental disaster. “There are scores of us born in the silent spring, whose wombs won’t take, won’t bear anything…Does it move to the beat of the oil drums, or flow out of our eyes as we’re wailing? …Land goes for less downwind of the plant. There’s not telling how long we’ll be paying.”

Make no mistake. This is no cloying dance club schlock, despite what you might think you’re hearing, and that’s the beauty (or perhaps frustration?) of this challenging album. Opener “Velvet 4 Sale” pumps and thumps out of the gates with a sexy 70s soundtrack vibe, with a closing instrumental freak-out that recalls no less than Robert Fripp. For full effect, toss in these hunted-becomes-hunter lyrics, “Act like you got some velvet for sale then, you destroy their hope for deliverance. Don’t offer no reason. Instill in them the fear that comes from being prey. Now watch me holding it one handed, sideways trusting in that clip. The cock & pull will get the ol’ boys dancing.” The Fripp reference isn’t the only time that Bowie came to mind. There’s a scent of him that hangs over this in ways I can’t quite put my finger on, save to acknowledge its presence.

“M.A.H.,” which brings to mind nothing less than Abba, talks about being “mad as hell,” and drops this reassuring line on you, “We can never know the hands we’re in until we feel them grip, choking off our air supply…” Whisper that in your partner’s ear while you’re flaunting your inner Tony Manero (or Disco Stu for the youngsters) at the retro nightclub sometime, and see how that floats. The clever “L-Over” reminds us that we go into relationships for a variety of reasons, one of which might just be to try something different, even if the results are predictably problematic, “A swing and a miss, I tried for a hit. I got my thrill, now get me off of this ride.”

As I mentioned, Remy isn’t so foolish as to overplay her hand, however. “Incidental Boogie,” a disturbing take on abusive relationships, rides a jarring noise-pop accompaniment. The finale “Time” infuses a scant eight lines about the negative correlation between time and need into an instrumental experiment fueled by a new wave vibe. It’s a bit of artistic self-indulgence on an otherwise concise set of songs.

If you ever thought that dance pop with a heavy retro feel could be the Trojan Horse for smart, shocking, and confrontational lyrics that serve as pointed commentary on a handful of socio-political subjects, your dreams have come true with this provocative offering. Certainly one of the most unique albums I’ve heard in a long while.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars