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The USA is a Monster - Tasheyana Compost

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Artist: The USA is a Monster

Album: Tasheyana Compost

Label: Load

Review date: Nov. 13, 2003

Every label should have a prog band. A band responsible for extreme technical proficiency, short attention span structure, and a confident, creative grasp on all things transitional. While most Load Records artists toe the line, The USAISAMONSTER neatly looks both ways, then steps right over it to the other side where their gear has been set up for years.

The duo of Colin Matthews on guitar and Tom Hohmann on drums focused their skills and creative aptitude on Taheyana Compost, the third full-length from the journeymen group. The album is an impatient masterpiece, a mess of overdrive, vintage keyboard, political skree and structural unpredictability – the last of which is the real star here. Album opener “Somehow” begins with a snare march, before Matthews matches voice and guitar in atonal harmony, introducing his often mind-bending efficiency with awkward syllabic rhythm. Words find unfamiliar accents in more-familiar time structures, their melodies alien and curiously easy. “Somehow” goes through no less than four major movements, each one interconnected with new ideas, riffs and sounds. The song sets a fiery, even epic precedence, particularly toward its finale when the low end cuts away unveiling a political vocals/keyboard call-and-response. “This I know from all I’ve learned / the home of the Indians cannot be returned somehow.” The lyrics are echoed by keys and a distant guitar, both sounding fist-pumpingly similar to Eddie Van Halen tapping very slowly.

The USAISAMONSTER keeps the verse/chorus concept hogtied in the trunk for most of the album, but pull off alternative structures with ease. Tracks like “Poison Snake”, “Ruin”, and the patently insane “Heliotropic Dream” are schizophrenic to the point of musical theatre – the ensemble cast comprised of clean-tone twiddles, off-kilter bad guy voices, implausible drum stops, and easily a half dozen varieties of overdrive. “Screaming Bloody Murder” searches franticly in the dark for unasked questions, getting more irate with each second – a veritable Melvins album compressed into six minutes.

“No More Forever” and the evil, frontier swagger of “Pastures” locate a more contained cycle of events, returning to past riffs and melodies purposefully, calling to mind Arab On Radar’s hypnotic weirdness as opposed to something, well…boring. On these tracks, the repetition usually serves to front more-precise messages. In the case of “No More Forever”, Matthews declares, “I will fight no more forever,” with drums and guitar in perfect unison. The moment is subtle and beautiful, and it’s this tempered decency that makes Taheyana Compost so complete and unafraid.

That’s why filing The USAISAMONSTER under Load Records’ “noise rock” umbrella just doesn’t work. The duo essentially rumble and quirk their way through 10 brick-heavy prog-rock songs, saluting punk, pop, and even wailing hair metal on the way. The diversity suggests a careful commentary on American crassness and cultural bleakness more than any brand of inter-band confusion – there’s no gratuitous speaker-frying sludge here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Like the most adventurous progressive bands, distinction and clarity merely build a frame for the actual substance, and, thankfully, the albums shining production projects each simmering note loud and clear, with Hohmann’s deep snare splattering huge throughout the mix. When it comes to year-end recognition, Taheyana Compost stands above most.

By A.A. Davidson

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