# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

USSA - The Spoils

  by Paul Raven

published: 19 / 4 / 2008

USSA - The Spoils
Label: Fuzz Records
Format: CD


Bleak but powerful post-apocalyptic debut album from U.S.S.A, the new band of former guitarist with the Jesus Lizard Duane Denison and Ministry bassist, Paul Barker

U.S.S.A. swell the ranks of alternative legends of the 90's resurfacing in musical projects old and new. Duane Denison, former guitarist of the Jesus Lizard, and Paul Barker, bassist of Ministry, form the tonal centre and driving force of the band, but the star and focal point of début album 'The Spoils' is surely vocalist Gary Call. Barker and Denison discovered Call in Nashville where he was developing a reputation as a performing musician and audio technician in his own right. Despite a decade's age difference between the veterans and the newcomer, they started working together and swapping musical influences. As a result, U.S.S.A. sound unique – although Denison's guitar is especially distinctive, it's subservient to the band as a whole. The nihilist vibe of proto-industrial acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Magazine is a clear influence, and the overall tone of the 'The Spoils' has a bleary echoing quality that brings to mind the more obscure Goth outfits of the late eighties. Cheery music, this is not. Nor is it industrial-by-the-numbers. There's plenty of studio craft and electronic trickery going on, but the songs follow a more traditional rock band format, with proper drums, verses and choruses ... and some bitter melodies to boot. Which is all well and good, but bands like that are ten a penny; it's Gary Call who raises U.S.S.A. above the pack by dint of his superbly distinctive vocals. Call conjures a sense of genuine psychodrama with his performances, seeming to become the voice of the song rather than simply channelling it, embodying the void at the centre of things that the songs portray. The lyrical nihilism and existential despair dovetails with the cold melodics of the music. There's a real post-apocalyptic tinge to The Spoils, with themes of catastrophic climate change and the destruction of the natural world ('Summer Endless Summer', 'Blue Light') dominating alongside tales of more personal destructions ('Peculiar Things'). In the hands of many vocalists such material would come over as trite preachy environmentalism, but Call's method-acting style makes the characters of the songs stride out life-like onto the musical stage. The chorus of 'Autumn Flowers' is a striking manic portrayal of paranoia and despair, for example, while 'Cruel Beauty' is fuelled by dust-bowl cyberpunk fury, and 'Forget Yourself' hinges on a schizoid mantra that will lurk in your ears like a half-seen stalker for hours afterwards. Just when you think you've had all you can take, the moody reptilian loops of 'Wasteland' bring 'The Spoils 'to a close at just the right moment. At a first listen U.S.S.A. seem to be taking an almost punkish approach to their material, but it soon becomes apparent that a great deal of thought and craft has been applied to this album – the true art is making it seem effortless. 'The Spoils' is a bleak piece of work, but these are bleak times we live in; if you can cope with looking at the parched landscape without the protection of rose-tinted goggles, U.S.S.A. may be your ideal guide to the dystopic future that awaits us just around the corner.

Track Listing:-
1 Dead Voices
2 Autumn Flowers
3 Blue Light
4 Cruel Melody
5 Middletown
6 Summer Endless Summer
7 Forget Yourself
8 Cab Ride
9 Peculiar Thing
10 Sugarwater
11 Wasteland

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