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Yours & Not Yours

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Album Review

Between his work with Beat Rodeo, the Schramms, the Bongos, the Health & Happiness Show, and Edward Rogers, George Usher has a résumé that would raise the eyebrows of most fans of roots rock or contemporary power pop, but he's chosen to turn his talents in a decidedly different direction on his fifth solo album, Yours and Not Yours. This set is a collection of subdued chamber pop tunes, most accompanied by a small acoustic ensemble or a string section, and the tone is gently downbeat, with Usher's songs dominated by tales of relationships that have broken down or choices that didn't work out. There is a hopeful side to the opener, "Somewhere North of the Sky," and a sly air of mischief in the kiss-off number "Where Is Your Guardian Angel?," but even on those songs the mood is more wistful than joyous, and Usher's vocals (which recall a mellower and pensive Matthew Sweet) glide over the waves of gentle sadness like a sailboat over a smooth lake. The arrangements match the material beautifully, from the high lonesome pedal steel on "It Never Happened" and "Unforgivable Sin" to the muted trumpet, cello, and piano that circle one another on "Comedy of Errors," and while the tone of these songs is consistent, Usher manages to give each a vocal reading that sets it apart; the overall theme of this album is "Love Hurts," but he's able to identify a rich variety of aches brought on by a broken heart. And lyrically, for all the romantic failures on display, Usher's stories are told with a keen eye for human behavior and an eloquent gift for wordplay. Yours and Not Yours would probably be a bad choice for a party on Saturday night, but if you're looking for mood music for a rainy autumn afternoon, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than this study of love among the ruins.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Art-pop singer/songwriter George Usher was born in Cleveland, where his early demo recordings gained local radio airplay while he was still in his teens. He had already cut enough demo material to fill out a good 30 albums before he relocated to New York in 1977, soon forming the power-pop band the Decoys; by the middle of the following decade, Usher was a member of the cowpunk outfit Beat Rodeo, appearing on their 1986 LP Home in the Heart of the Beat. A satellite member of the Bongos, during the...
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Yours & Not Yours, George Usher
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