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.