by Brian J. Audette
It’s tough to pin US Weekly down. Their sound is unique, yet familiar and over the past couple of years I’ve attempted to turn people onto them with comparisons to similar (yet oh, so different) acts. The artful swagger of Nation of Ulysses, the hoarse vocals of Black Flag, the irreverent playfulness of Pixies, and the social awareness of countless bands before them. All and yet none of this describes US Weekly, though on their new self-titled LP they’ve come out swinging again, demonstrating why they’ve consistently remained one of Austin’s most interesting and vital acts.
Musically US Weekly is about what I’ve come to expect from this band. It’s minimal without being sparse, punctuated by tight riffs and stabby chords, with the soft, menacing patter of rolling drums backed by bass that oozes swagger and cool. Over their last few releases, synth and keys have played a more prominent role in the band’s sound and here they come out from the background to good effect. Chris Nordahl’s hoarse vocals anchor the majority of US Weekly’s songs, providing intense emphasis to charged lyrics. On this latest release Nordahl quiets down in a few places however, allowing the band’s melodic backing vocals to take the lead, providing welcome variety. Altogether it’s a sound that’s both classically punk yet invigoratingly artful and modern.
Lyrically US Weekly is out for blood and packing a mean left hook for the status quo. “American Piss” anthemically admonishes political bystanders and conservative profiteers, while “Creative Class” takes on a culture of artistic pretension, shallow cool-hunting, and bandwagon mentalities. “New Obsessions” explores the scary realities faced daily by women both in the real world and online. “Tries to follow you home refuses to leave you alone/Blocking out his fiendish moans /Why why why” Nordahl growls over the sound of flanged guitars and reverby strums that serve to create a growing sense of unease culminating in a static-laden outro like something out of a horror movie soundtrack.
“US Weekly F.C.” is a bizarre, art-rock, spoken word interlude about sports, using bits of poems found through Google image search, begging comparison to Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier.” “Women” takes on regressive attitudes toward women and their reinforcement by media and society. “Ad Experience” is an anti-consumerism screed with a sped up hardcore riff on the back end. And “Percocet” just wants to get away from it all as Nordahl sings “Give me Percocet/I’ll be out for few hours”.
US Weekly is easily the most “punk” album I’ve heard in a long time and another huge step forward for this band. It’s subversive, edgy without trying to be hip, and woke as fuck. In the age of Trump, so-called “men’s rights activists,” corporate cronyism, and actual goddamn Nazis, this is the kind of album we need. On this latest LP US Weekly do what punk does best and they sound great doing it. Take my advice: pick this up, play it loud, don’t sit down, don’t shut up.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bjaudette.