These United States

What Lasts

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There is nothing wrong with being eccentric, odd, or goofy in the music world; eccentricity has worked wonders for everyone from George Clinton to Devo to Frank Zappa to avant-garde jazz explorers like Ornette Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Anthony Braxton. But there is a way to go about it, and These United States have a reputation for trying a little too hard when it comes to getting in touch with their inner oddball. Their work can be overly self-conscious -- and on What Lasts, which is These United States' fourth full-length studio album, they continue to sound like they are trying a bit too hard. Much of the time, their eccentricity still sounds like a forced eccentricity rather than an organic or natural one. But that is not to say that the 35-minute CD is without its pleasures. These United States are not an unlikable band, and their lyrics can be entertaining at times. Picture a 21st century combo with a psychedelic folk-rock/Americana approach that is greatly influenced by the hippie counterculture of the '60s and '70s; that is where These United States are coming from on this 2010 release, as well as on their previous releases. But while the hippie musicians and flower children of the baby boomer era were organic in their oddball experimentation, What Lasts often has a contrived quality. These United States are trying to transport the listener back to a conversation among a group of weed-smoking flower children circa 1971/1972, but lyrically, they continue to miss the mark and end up sounding pretentious instead. Nonetheless, they do have an appealing sense of melody, and despite this album's shortcomings, one doesn't want to give up on These United States just yet.

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