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Purple On Time

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Album Review

After the somewhat disappointing Acre Thrills, U.S. Maple got a new drummer and, as Purple on Time reveals, a new sound. Coherence isn't necessarily the first word that comes to mind when describing albums like Talker and Long Hair in Three Stages, but it does apply to this collection of songs, particularly the album opener, "My Lil' Shocker." A Sonic Youth-like mix of shimmer and menace, the song is hardly Top 40 material — it sounds like Al Johnson is saying "Yahweh" instead of "oh yeah" on the choruses — but it does introduce the order that Purple on Time gives to U.S. Maple's chaos. Several of the songs, such as "Sweet & Center" and "Tan Loves Blue" even flirt with hooks, while "Oh Below" and a hazy, fragmented cover of "Lay Lady Lay" edge into prettiness and suggest an emotional side that the band never had before. This is still U.S. Maple though; the band's music is still viscous and volatile, with melodies and rhythms that take a while to coalesce before changing into something else entirely. "I'm Just a Bag" and "Whoopee Invader" sound the most like the group's old work, albeit slightly tighter. "Dumb in the Wings," one of Purple on Time's best tracks, is both brooding and unpredictable, staggering around like a drunk in the dark. Likewise, "Touch Me Judge" manages to be serene, chaotic, and romantic all at the same time. While very little can compare to U.S. Maple at its peak, Purple on Time is still quite a good album and offers the group some new possibilities; for a band as out there as U.S. Maple is, becoming a little more normal is one of the weirder things that it could do.


Formed: 1995 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

In early 1995, U.S. Maple was born out of the ashes of two groups at Chicago's Northern Illinois University. Lead singer Al Johnson and "high" guitarist Mark Shippy were in Shorty, while drummer Pat Samson and "low" guitarist Todd Rittman spent their time with the Mercury Players. After the breakup of the two bands, the members met to see how they could deconstruct rock, only to leave its most basic elements. Since their development, they have released three different albums. The band recorded their...
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Purple On Time, U.S. Maple
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