Insouciance is often confused for weakness. Bands like the Dead Milkmen or the Aquabats rarely get the respect they may warrant because their lyrical content has a certain amount of goofiness. The Presidents of the United States of America roughly fit into that category as well. Despite two decades as a band, two Grammy nominations, and a platinum album, the affectionately abbreviated PUSA still are like Rodney Dangerfield; they can’t get no respect. The band’s sixth studio album, Kudos to You! is filled with inherently PUSA songs.
Listening through PUSA’s back catalogue, it is evident the band falls into certain lyrical tropes. Previous albums have included songs like “Bug City,” “Lady Bug” and “Boll Weevil” so it should come as no surprise Kudos to You! opens with “Slow Slow Fly.” The track is about a fly who is fast during the summer but as it becomes colder, gets progressively slower. While the lyrical content may seem almost children song-esque, the music is reminiscent of mid-90s Primus with its strong low end and kooky blues guitar. Following the bug trope is late album track, “Flea vs Mite.” The lyrics essentially explains the difference between a flea and a mite in an arena rock format. The song’s bombastic chorus, driving drums, and blazing lead guitar make it sound like something out of the Sunset Strip in the 80s.
While the kookiness and weirdness can be overlooked on the songs with strong pop sensibility, it is does get hard when a song’s chorus or melody doesn’t hold up. “Poor Little Me” is a psuedo-rockabilly number that sounds somewhere between Cake and Rev Horton Heat but campier. The campiness makes the song feel like a dud. It is campy lyrics that are the downfall of “Electric Spider” which has potential to be a good track with its bluesy hard-rock sound but the lyrics which are essentially listing ingredients to a magic potion are just too tedious.
Although Kudos to You! will not be a critical success nor probably a commercial success, the album has more to offer than many publications will have you believe. PUSA still has the knack for writing interesting and diverse pop songs.
MP3: The Presidents of the United States of America “Slow Slow Fly”
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