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Music Review: The Presidents of the United States of America – These Are The Good Times People

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The Presidents of the United States of America are back with a new album, These Are The Good Times People to be released on March 11th, 2008. It’s the first new full album from the band since Love Everybody in 2004. Hmmm, a new album after four years, in an election year no less? Could this be a campaign for re-election?

POTUSA, as they are known to fans, are known for their funny, clever lyrics matched to a pop-punk folk style music. This release is more of the same, and that’s a good thing people. The songs still sounds fresh and alive.

The album starts with “Mixed Up SOB,” the first single, and takes a ride through a lot of styles, to include folk (“Loose Balloon”), punk (“Rot In The Sun”), rock (“Fangs”), country (“Truckstop Butterfly”), swing dance (“Flame Is Love”) and funk (“Deleter”), before ending with an acoustic piece called “Loose Balloon” that is one of my favorites.

Despite being all over the map, you get a feel that this band not only can do these styles and do them well, but also enjoy mixing it up and not getting pigeonholed. Kind of reminds me of Elvis Costello, but in a good way.

Try as I might, I cannot get this CD out of my car CD player. I listen to it wherever I drive — and when you have two daughters, that’s a lot of driving. I knew it was a hit though when my five year-old didn’t ask me to change the music to Hannah Montana, and instead started singing along to “Rot In The Sun”.

I get a feeling that this band really enjoys making music together. There is a sense of fun and frolic that blends well with how truly accomplished the musicians are both individually and as a team. One reason is that in every song, you hear the music and it would not be surprising to have some sappy mainstream lyrics matched up with it. I can imagine the band members writing two versions even, just to see which they like better.

The thing is, they would probably do both well. The lyrics match up to the music so nicely that even though they present jarringly odd images sometimes (“Truckstop Butterfly, covered in gasoline. Truckstop Butterfly, kiss you till you’re clean”), you find yourself singing along without recognizing that the words aren’t sappy mainstream.

Eddie Vedder once talked about trying to write a song from the perspective of a room service tray. The Presidents did him one better. “So Lo So High” is a love song between a fish and a bird. Yes, you read that right. You know what? It works too.

It would be a mistake to label POTUSA as a total novelty band. Yes, there are some very silly lyrics sometimes, such as on the “Bad Times” chorus (“You twisted your ankle so I carried you, You got a divorce so I married you, You fell off a cliff so I buried you, I wish there were more bad times to see you through”). Another example of this can be found on the song “Ladybug” (“Maggots do a dance in the meat when the meat goes sour”). The occasional clever turn of phrase such as that found on “Fangs” (“He’s the boy with the broken brain, not insane but never happy”) also keeps the sound fresh.

Despite the sometimes silly song content, none of these songs get old and you will never get that novelty song look when you’re blasting them in your dope ride. Just cruising along without really listening to the lyrics can fool you sometimes, talk about a fun game to play on your passengers. Ask them what they think of it before having them really listen to the lyrics. The looks you’ll get as the comprehension comes are priceless.

So, in this year of election, what’s the vote? These Presidents deserve re-election. Hell, I vote for repealing the term limits for them!

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.