Reviews for [RL25]
United States "Divorce Songs"
- Bystander Fanzine
United States play catchy post hardcore. The song writing can be compared to Fugazi, with anthem-like lyrics and song arrangements. High-energy music that makes you want to dance, but there is enough passion and emotion to give it depth. Some of the intros are a bit long, but add to the dynamics of the song structure. The stand out, “Grand Stand,” is a slow-paced track with a driving bass line and an awkward but interesting guitar lead that reminds me of Cursive.
The best part of this record is the recording. The guitar sound is awesome, not overly produced. The drum recording is low fi, which ads to the feel of the record. Bass is prevalent, very dark and distorted sound for the style.
While United States play music that is more “indie” then “punk”, there are enough rough edges that someone in the hardcore scene can appreciate it. “Divorce Songs” is a strong release from a band that has a bright future.
Blending elements of punk, hardcore, dirty rock, and indie, United States his us with Divorce Songs, an eight track, thirty two minute LP that dabbles with experimentation enough to dub this post-punk at its most definitive. Vocal styles range from narrative to concussive. Guitars both penetrate, and orbit. The drums punish always. Together, this band covers a broad spectrum, calling to mind bands like Bear vs Shark, and At the Drive-In while channeling Sonic Youth, Sebadoh, and Cursive in the process. Sub Pop, pay attention.
The full record doesn't offer much by way of diversity, but with United States, we're not talking about reinventing the wheel. United States is raw, unrefined music for people of the same nature. The songs feature simple guitar leads (the simplest being found in the second track, West River), with vocals often being the driving force of the songs. And the vocals almost never stand alone, especially in the chorus which offers at least two people screaming along the hook with lead singer. To picture their live show is to call to mind a late night at CB's on a crowded stage with kinetics bouncing everywhere. And the crowd goes wild, or does not give a fuck, but United States are always on.
With innovation reigning supreme in the music world, it's good to see that this band has kept it old school, and still able to provide an interesting dynamic that still keeps their voice from sounding like an illegitimate attempt at rehashing the classics. Divorce Songs is a very strong LP.
I would need a crate of appendages and a team of well-skilled surgeons in order to count on fingers and toes the number of post-Fugazi releases I've gotten in the mail this year. While none of them are particularly bad, there's a few standing up and poking their nose out of the rest of the crowd. One of those is United States, whose 8-song debut full-length is also the most authentic-sounding; you'd swear this came straight from the Dischord catalog circa early `90s. While some might take that and read it as accusations of a dated sound being produced by US, it's actually a pretty cool trait.
Again, yes, there are a mere 8 songs here, but they total out at just under 33 minutes, which means United States provide very little filler and instead a tight, small collection of jagged, rough and tumble post-hardcore tunes. One of the especially notable moments would be towards the end of the opener and title track, a raucous and repeititve but surly chant of "there's a reason / why I'm tense!." It's moments like these that really propel the disc, even though their quieter, more sedated offerings provide the necessary counterpoint ("Grand Stand").
Thing is, even with how time-specific Divorce Songs seems to be, United States definitely bring out their Cursive influences at points. "Thanks for Nothing" surely seems like that band's early-to-middle era, coughing up bags of gravel with every yell and guitar squalls at every corner.
We talk about bands being influenced by other bands, but record labels are definitely influenced by other labels, and if Iron Pier continues a developing nod towards Dischord as it marches on, punk/hardcore fans will be all the more grateful.
If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed as a reviewer regarding mid-90’s-influenced post-hardcore it’s that it is usually widely accepted by critics. Every now and then, a few of these releases will pop-up among the plethora of “scene” releases, offering the critic in question a break from the norm. Almost always can you find hints of Quicksand or Fugazi in these albums that are recorded with a sense of raw edge and energy. One of the latest bands taking us back to that time period is Brooklyn’s United States. On their debut album for Iron Pier titled Divorce Songs, the quintet strives to make the most of their post-hardcore and they most definitely hit the mark.
With eight songs that eclipse the thirty-minute mark, this disc handles more like a full-length than an EP. From the dissonance found in tracks like “Divorce Songs” and “Radio On” to the melodic, single-chord plucking found in “Apartments”, United States surely cover the spectrum of the genre they play. Perhaps even more spot-on are the vocals which are often distorted, shouted, and sung in gritty tones. This is heard best in the surprisingly catchy “West River” where a great guitar lead pushes the song forward above those signature vocals, ending in a bitter chant of “not such a novel idea after all”. “Depression” is the band’s best attempt at dance-y post-whatever as the drum and bass section of the band over-power the guitars for once, offering a feet-moving rhythm that is a first for the band. The rhythm highlights don’t end there, however, as you’ll hear a great drum lead in the song “Absentee Ballot”. The guitars steal the show in this track as they have a style that reminds me a lot of the short-lived Despistado. All in all, the songs on Divorce Songs are surely worth the listen, especially if you’re the kind of person that seeks raw energy and emotion over slick, over-produced nothingness.
- Screaming Bloody Mess
Energetic songwriting that falls to the indie rock side of post punk, you know that early Jawbox sound or what Cursive seemed to be dong around the time they were writing ’Domestica’. Like that record many of the themes on ‚’Divorce Songs’ seem to be about loss. 'Turn out the lights/Walk straight home in the middle of the night/ I used to say "I love you" Now i say "Goodbye" sings Justin S on the album highlight 'West River'. Elsewhere A refereshing element of the 8 songs is their different and varied arrangements. 'Grand Stand' builds up from bass and simple percussion to a plaintive chant "I want to say something now- too late". Dude it getting shit on by something or someone. The song like the record is a real grower though.
I could see United States easily fitting in with bands like Braid, The Promise Ring and Piebald, all before they got mega famous. United States doesn't really sound like any of those bands. If anything, they are more D.C./Fugazi influenced. I mean I could actually imagine United States fitting in with these guys on a ho-down ten years ago. They're the type of band you would imagine got interviewed in Anti-Matter and Norm wrote something about meeting the singer in a vegetarian restaurant and how they've shared a special friendship ever since.
Lately, there's been a lot of bands really successfully aping the past. This isn't so much a band that was influenced by the post hardcore/emo of '96, but morseo a band that was influenced by the influences of the post hardcore/emo of '96. It's kind of a weird f**k theory, I know, but it's true.
Nonetheless, if you pick up what I'm putting down, this is a great CD. It just has this energy and genuineness about it that most bands lack. If you are a dude who grew up in the 90's wearing a sweater to ho-dillies and dating a girl with a short haircut, this CD will make you grab on to your backpack straps and sway back and forth. If you're a kid growing up right now wearing thrift store clothes even though your parents could provide you with new clothes and you're dating a girl who wears the same size jeans as you, you can erratically snap your fingers and knock your knees like Navin Johnson to this CD, and that's the beauty of it. It brings together sensitive types from all different time lines to go fly kites and write journals with each other. You can't ask for anything more.
Brooklyn's UNITED STATES (ex-THE INSURGENT, THE ASSISTANT and a whole bunch more) are a noisy, brash five piece that channel a serious obsession with Dischord Records favorites EMBRACE, RITES OF SPRING, and FUGAZI. While citing those three bands may be the easy way out of describing the band's sound in more descriptive tunes, it's a sureshot that anyone hearing UNITED STATES will immediately think of at least one of those bands, presuming their musical awareness stretches so far. And this is far, far from a bad thing. Much like the END OF A YEAR disc that Revelation put out this year, this kind of post-hardcore/emo sound never falls out of fashion, especially when played skillfully... something that UNITED STATES has nothing to worry about. From the whirlwind rhythms of "Depression Music," to the mesmerizing, building guitar intro to "Absentee Ballot," and the lyrically stellar "Radio On," Divorce Songs is a full-length that has no time for stagnation. If there's a clearly visible drawback to this release, it's that it was recorded in only two days and the overall feeling is fairly lo-fi. Of course, that RITES OF SPRING disc didn't sound too hot either in its time (or even with a thorough remastering), but that was 20 something years ago. Still, UNITED STATES do their influences proud, and impress with plenty of lyrical wit and substance, factors that make Divorce Songs an obvious keeper.
- Maximum Rock N Roll #280
You remember when people started talking about "post-hardcore"? Didn't it sound like the most ridiculous genre description you ever heard? This band of Brooklyn-ites (who are all in, or have been in, punk bands like RINGERS and BENT OUTTA SHAPE) have adopted the sound of those 90's bands who "outgrew" hardcore, which is code for "we're going to copy Fugazi". Some of this is pretty urgent and dynamic, some of it meanders pointlessly reminding me of the worst excesses of HOOVER. Although it sounds like I'm not digging this, I actually think it's pretty good, and hopefully you'll know from this review whether it's your cup of tea or not. - (AM)