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  United State of Electronica  
  Mannheim Worldwide  
Release Date:
  early 2004  
Reviewed by:
  bill E. joel  

While electronica suggests an already passe buzzword used to lump together a bunch of wannabees and neverbeens looking to hop on the flavor of the month bandwagon, a neutral description would be a musical style combining rock and dance, usually with synthetic and analog instrumentation. While Seattle-based U.S.E. fits this general description, they really are more PFunk than Prodigy: a real band that can play, and does so with mostly up-tempo, energetic performances and mixed instrumentation fusing rock, rap, funk, and disco. The drummer works the hi-hat big time, fat basslines are everywhere, and the guitar leads the way on most tracks, being equally comfortable playing with subtlety or volume, often utilizing a chorused Queenly effect. The keyboards generally fill out the sound rather than dominate it.

The playing on their first full length album, United State of Electronica, is not without its flaws. The reliance on vocoder vocals gets old, and the backing vox are a little amateurish in spots. U.S.E. goes for a party philosophy and a semi-whimsical approach with positive upbeat lyrics, which can be hard to pull off without sounding trite or sappy. Although they generally hit the mark, when they miss, it is not pretty. While it is understood that party music will suffer from a certain lack of depth, nevertheless, some of these tracks are really no more than the title or a few phrases repeated over and over and could benefit from a little judicious editing. Some of the tracks are overlong, with the tunes stretched tighter than Rush Limbaugh's gym shorts.

IT IS ON sets the tone right up front. It has a live vibe, rowdy guitar and a propulsive rhythm, with exuberant vocodered vox exhorting the party people to come on. Emerald City follows suit as a melodic number with upbeat love song lyrics and massed guitars pushing up the energy level. Climb the Walls continues with a slower tempo and a wad of guitars that would make Brian May proud. Takin' it All the Way is also a slower paced song, with picked guitars and strong drumming leading the way.

It's Always the Right Time continues the live vibe, with cranked up energetic guitars setting the stage for a rap. Night Shift also features rapping to good effect. Vamos a la Playa sounds like The B-52's soundtrack to a remake of Beach Blanket Bingo. La Discoteca closes things out with a loose, funky percussive jam.

One of the songs on United State of Electronica, There's Always Music, hits the nail right on the head: no matter what crud comes down the pipe, the right record at the right time can make things seem better. Wall of sound guitars, frenetic rapping, and nicely syncopated rhythms push along the message. Overall, an enjoyable but slight record.

Brendan's Note:
  The band is giving the album away free, with the caveat that if you like it you should donate some money to them. I wonder how that will work out for them? If you would like to listen, go to the Mannheim Worldwide site and download away.  
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Download this album.


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