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A Picture of the Three of Us At the Gate to the Garden of Eden

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Album Review

So-called Johnny Appleseed descendant Jesse Elliott is stuck in a sometimes pleasant, sometimes obnoxiously pretentious rut on this album whose rather goofy title should scare anyone who wouldn't be interested in the album's equally overdone lyrics. Elliott clearly sees himself as some sort of poetic chronicler of roadside America here, offering up 12 verbose, loungey explorations of American life. But any insights are lost behind a reliance on painfully rhymed clichés and grade-school caliber metaphors. Elliott's got a good voice and strong delivery; both his voice and the processing effects are reminiscent of M. Ward, and that's not a bad thing at all. But Elliott and multi-instrumentalist/producer David Strackany can't match the melodies of Ward. That's fine on atmospheric twinklers like the standouts "Preface: Painless" and "Diving Boards Pointed at the Sky," but most of the album suffers from weak hooks supported by painful alliteration and cringe-worthy imagery. Lines like "I got a big brand new Cadillac of pain" and "toting ten tons of magenta and red, and the gentleman said what the gentleman said" crop up too frequently. One song ends with Elliott calling himself a lonely butcher, and the very next song ends with a line about "the lonely devil." He's talking about the devil being lonely. It's very hard in these post-ironic times to get away with such overreaching, meaninglessly poetic lyrics. And many will perhaps find the line between art and artifice trod upon too heavily. But that doesn't mean Elliott isn't a likable chap. It's just hard to believe in the wordy narrator persona he puts on here. With a better editing pen, fewer desperate rhymes, and certainly less reliance on clichés, there's certainly potential for These United States to make great art. This, though, is the kind of nice, safe album a listener wants to like badly, but whose flaws ultimately leave one fumbling for the skip button on repeat listens.

Customer Reviews

Album Review is Totally Ridiculous and Misleading

This album is probably one of the most thoughtful and poetic works of art that I have listened to in the past 5 years. It's impossible to appreciate each song on an individual basis because all the songs work as a cohesive unit to create one amazing musical experience in the shape of an album. Like Smashing Pumpkin's "Melon Collie" or Blonde Redhead's "Misery is a Butterfly"...These United State's album just makes sense. The album review says that Garden of Eden is full of obvious cliches and "desperate rhymes" but I think the album reviewer didn't know how to listen to the album. The lyrics are incredibly intelligent and evoke images that can be listened to over and over. They lack any of the inherent pretensions or lyrical cliches that you might find in a Bright Eyes album. Jesse Elliot's voice is utterly raw and seems to penetrate the core of your spine. I think that this one of the great albums of 2008...and itunes album critics be damned...I think in a few years we'll all be patting ourselves on the back and bragging to people that we were some of the first to buy this album.

Debut Album from These United States!!! Buy It!

I have been following ever since their existence and let me tell you this might be the most anticipated album I have purchased in recent history! Buy it! Listen to lyrics, the complex and rich arrangements, and be swept away. I know this review might sound a little too glowing but this album and band is more than deserving! Listen to the album, Listen to them live, Listen to them in an elevator. Ahhh just listen to them!! They are touring starting March 3rd 2008... So please heed my advice and catch them in a city near you!!!

I, too, have been anticipating this album for months

By far my favorate album in at least a couple years.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Combining Devendra Banhart's "new weird American" eccentricity, Flaming Lips-influenced electronic bells and whistles, and a Wilco-esque twanginess, These United States create a musical melting pot that blends together a wide array of influences. Born of a collaboration between Jesse Elliott and David Strackany (the man behind Paleo), These United States put together the songs that would become their debut LP in 2007. The resulting album, A Picture of the Three...
Full Bio
A Picture of the Three of Us At the Gate to the Garden of Eden, These United States
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Customer Ratings