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The USA is a Monster - Citizens of the Chronic

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Artist: The USA is a Monster

Album: Citizens of the Chronic

Label: Infrasound

Review date: Dec. 11, 2003

This new CD combines two previous releases by this outfit, the Masonic Chronic 12" EP and the Citizens of the Universe LP. Even the first song, "Desert," displays the oddball tendencies of the band. It starts as a ragged acoustic ballad, then builds up into a distorto-guitar freakout. "Dub" dispenses with the first part and falls freely into pinwheeling wall-of-noise chaos before pulling out of the spin and cohering into a repeating chug-chug rock-out. Lest that not be enough, though, the duo attempt to make it fall apart into avant-twiddling, then back into riffing, and so on.

Evolution followed by devolution is the name of the game here, making this group poster boys for attention deficit disorder. Several things save them from being accused of dilettantism, though. First, they somehow pull it off without any feeling of "check out what comes next" -- the songs mutate on and on, but for the most part it's an organic process, not simply glueing one piece onto another. Second, while there's no doubt technical prowess happening here, it's undercover, so to speak. The splattering, seeming chaos conceals the fact that they clearly know where they are and what they're doing.

The metallic hardcore of "Ritalin" is one of their more straightforward songs, which is ironic considering its changes between shambling heaviness and high-speed clatter. The pseudo-melodic vocals on "We're Surely Spliffin'" are a bit much, but if approached with a sense of humor they're not so bad. And the guitar riff certainly makes the song worth your while too.

Following up the crashing, shrieking anarchy of "Dookie Monster" with the acoustic-sounding singsong intro of "Empire" makes for quite a contrast. And even when the song moves into a higher gear it's still quite the gentle ballad. Not like "Ropetwine," which follows with sliding, distorted guitar and bashing, clattering drums.

Like the album artwork, this music has a decidedly handmade feeling and an attitude of freaked-out, hellbent fun that's pretty contagious. I have to admit that I'm not sure how often I'll put the CD on, since this feels like something to experience live instead of on a stereo. But I'll file it mentally with my Boredoms and Ruins discs, and I may find myself pulling it out more than I expect.

By Mason Jones

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