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Album Review

Is Lump fast asleep, or rocking out with the band? The year: 1995. Mauled by the grunge animal, the nation embraces a different sound from Seattle — a new leadership — one with eight steel strings to its name and a clutch of songs about kitties, peaches, and lingering last in line for brains. The Presidents of the United States of America hit Mach 2 with their wry punkish platform, and rode it all the way to platinum before quietly disappearing. While the band's sound had fit perfectly into the screwy '90s, it was a novelty memory by the 21st century. Which is too bad, because 2000's under-the-radar LP Freaked Out and Small was pretty damn good, and 2004's Love Everybody is even better. A little older and rocking the family life, two-string "basitarist" Chris Ballew, guitarist Dave Dederer, and drummer Jason Finn have focused the beam of their wit laser on their tightest melodies yet. The sound's as stripped down as it ever was — dry punk-derived chording with peppy basslines and consistently propulsive drumming. But the new songs' chorus harmonies are more consistently inviting, and the occasional keyboard flourish keeps things interesting. The Presidents have also settled into a sort of sardonic humanism. They still write songs about animal eyes in the gooey darkness ("Munky River"). But "Zero Friction" considers a drum machine as a metaphor for the meaning of life, and "Poke and Destroy" celebrates little boys' universal need to break stuff. "You gotta love everybody," the opening title track directs, "and make 'em feel good about themselves." "Some Postman" is the perfect Presidents song, with its simply effective mix of acoustic and electric guitars and that energetic chorus. But it's also a love song, its quirkiness fueled into clever lyrics about a long-distance relationship. Other Love Everybody highlights include the ruckus-raising "Clean Machine" (dig that fuzzy tone), the almost Spoon-sounding "Vestina," and "Shreds of Boa," which harks back to their 1995 style, but is just a stronger song all around. Love Everybody is an enjoyable and welcome return for the Presidents of the United States. As it turns out, the peaches are even sweeter on the other side.

Biography

Formed: 1990 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Presidents of the United States of America were one of the most unlikely success stories of the post-grunge alternative rock scene in Seattle. Where the rest of their Seattle brethren traded in heavy guitars and heavy angst, the Presidents rejected torment for humor, writing short, simple, and absurd punk songs that relied more on goofy attitude than sludgy riffs and tormented screams. It was a formula that worked, as the group's...
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