U.S.S.A. is a relatively new project consisting of Ministrys Paul Barker, Tomahawks Duane Denison and two other guys. Two out of four guys that have had some level of fame does not make a supergroup, a word seemingly thrown around any time a dude from one known band happens to get together with one or more dudes from another known band. But for those familiar with both artists, the collaboration between these two gentlemen should be reason enough to check this group out just the same.
Their debut album, The Spoils manages to yield quite a few surprises. At first youll be surprised at the whole D.I.Y thing of it all, a relatively small (in marketing strategies, anyway) release through seemingly not so much a label as an independent artists collective known as Fuzz Artists.
The next big surprise is the bands music. One would think a cool amalgam of industrial Ministry / Lard / Revolting Cocks mixed with the coolness of a Jesus Lizard / Tomahawk kind of a thing and youd be half right. The latter half, that is, because U.S.S.A. sounds pretty much exactly what wed always come to expect from Tomahawk, with the exclusion of their last album, the polarizing Anonymous. But for all who disliked Anonymous, the groove-oriented chugga-chugga rhythms are back. All of this is a good thing, mind you. Its just puzzling that Barkers contributions are seemingly so minimal. It isnt until more than halfway through the album that Barkers influence is felt on the ball-stomper Forget Yourself.
From Denisons signature guitar work in opener Dead Voices to the slower-tempo almost Steel Pole Bathtub-esque Wasteland, there isnt an ounce of wasted space on this album, which, I can say in all sincerity that had it been reviewed three months ago, it would have been in at least my top fifteen records of the year. Singer Gary Call was a good find for the band. Hes a very versatile vocalist that serves the music well. If this lineup was maintained and there was never another Tomahawk album, it wouldnt be the worst thing in the world. I mean, whatever treats Mike Patton always brings to the table, Tomahawk was first and foremost Denisons project and while their albums were strong in their own way, I would even go so far as to say that The Spoils is a stronger entry than any of them or, at the very least more consistent.
I think Ive just touched on what my trouble with Tomahawk has always been. While Ive always enjoyed Patton in whatever hes associated himself with, Tomahawk just seemed like an awkward fit. For a guy whos gone from Mr. Bungle to Fantômas to his Mondo Cane project, a more mainstream (though not in the denigrating sense of the word) project feels ill-suited for a guy whos best at his most experimental. U.S.S.A. feels more organic and fitting to what Denisons trying to do and for fans of his music. You cant get better than that.
8.1 / 10
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