The USAISAMONSTER Space Programs

[Load; 2008]

Styles:  proggy
Others: CSNY, Yes, Styx

On their fourth full-length record, Space Programs, Tom Hohman and Colin Langenus of The USAISAMONSTER virtually eliminate the noisiest qualities from their first and third records, expound on the ‘soft side’ of Wohaw, add a more-than-hefty dose of guitar/synth noodling, and harmonize in just about every song. And they do it brilliantly, all of it pulled off without a hitch. Their development has certainly distilled the more punk aspects of their work, but any destructive criticism that might be heaved at them will likely be a product of surprise rather than lament.

The militant/aggressive side is mostly replaced with a quasi-8-bit/Mario sound, and while the general content of their lyrics remains similar to their earlier work, Space Programs is proggy in a way that is somewhat unexpected. Phase-shifting beyond your wildest dreams, the guitar tone is clear as day, whereas just listening to the first couple bars of Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age evokes more of a metal sensibility than can be found in a single note here. This might be an unfair exaggeration, but the difference between Space Programs and The USAISAMONSTER's earlier work is exceedingly stark. Songs like “Above All It’s the Songs” seem almost like the kind of lofty, wide-eyed fodder of high school musicals rather than the bread and butter of the hard-edged noise circuit from which the band sprang.

“Ice Bridge,” the second track, is an interesting example. Here we have The USAISAMONSTER essentially retelling the history of the early settlement of North America. But they're not necessarily making an overt statement; they're just harmonizing their thoughts on human migration, using time signature changes as a way to advance the plot. It’s the classic songwriting that this duo is wont to exercise, and their practice and hard work shine through. However, part of what I've liked most about them is their anger and frustration, which acted as key sonic elements that complemented their explicit political slant.

Indeed, Space Programs is a little more Woodstock than noise house, and Tom and Colin’s output used to be much more nihilistic in a way that made the message seem complete. However, my personal politics ought not cloud my ability to fairly evaluate their ongoing career, and it's obvious that they are evolving in a way that reveals sustainable potential.

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