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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, or PUSA as they’ll be referred to from here on out, are the textbook definition of a cult band. The whimsical trio has broken up and gotten back together a few time in their career, adding to their cult status. In addition, like many other cult bands, PUSA have managed to keep a stable of fans as diverse as the fans of the Grateful Dead – whose music attracted everyone from stockbrokers to wayward hippies – happy.

Like many bands that achieve cult status the band had a brief affair with the big time after Columbia Records signed them and re-released their self-titled album that spawned three chart-making songs, “Kitty”, “Peaches”, and “Lump. The band quickly followed up with their next album, aptly called II, but it didn’t do as well commercially this time around and they split from Columbia Records in 1998.

Still the band managed, before taking a “indefinite break,” to do a few things to remain in the public eye, the most notable being their cover of Ian Hunter’s 1979 song “Cleveland Rocks”, which became the theme song for several seasons of the hilarious sitcom The Drew Carrey Show. In 2004 the band reformed and released Love Everybody and embarked on a well-received tour that proved the band still had a loyal fan base.

Four years later the band is back with These Are the Good Times People, a frantic and inventive album that continues to put humor and music on the same plate. Part of the appeal of PUSA is that founder Chris Ballew, who plays a “basitar” (a two-stringed guitar tuned to cover bass duty) and new member Andrew McKeag (who plays the guitar-replacing “guitbass”) make for a very unconventional band. The trio’s third member, Jason Finn, is also one of those rare drummer/vocalist types.

Despite the band's weird instrumentation and configuration, songs like the country-flavored “Truckstop Butterfly,” and the rhythm-driven “Poor Turtle” confirm that the band hasn’t lost their chops or the sense of humor that their fans expect.

The album's first single, “Messed Up S.O.B.”, has an '80s techno-rock vibe and a video directed by “Weird” Al Yankovic that are sure to become a PUSA fan favorite. Overall These Are the Good Times is another chapter in the band's strange career that fans will love and will likely convert even more people into the PUSA’s “joy-pop” cult.

Check out the band's official website.

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