The United States of America – The United States of America (Esoteric Recordings)

The United States of America released this, their only album, in March of 1968. The Los Angeles five-some were an interesting assemblage of influences gleaned from the psychedelic rock underground, mixed with avant-garde electronics and edgy leftist politics (there’s a song called “Love Song For The Dead Che”). As a rock band they were pretty clumsy and typical of the era’s average West Coast ballroom-psychedelic act. This side of the band features heavily on “Hard Coming Love” and the embarrassingly bad “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar.” It’s really the band’s forward-thinking use of electronics that made them unique. It’s what made them a hit with critics. It’s what made Nico (reportedly) want to join them after getting booted from The Velvet Underground. It’s why we still remember this album over 4.5 decades on. After all, how many other bands in 1968 had a member who played ring modulator and electric violin, but didn’t have a guitarist? While they didn’t go as far with electronics as The Silver Apples, they did get some really adventurous sounds out of their equipment, which, when paired with Dorothy Moskowitz’s vocals, gave “The American Metaphysical Circus,” “Cloud Song,” and the LSD anthem “Coming Down” an other-worldly feeling that Stereolab, Broadcast, and Portishead all picked up on decades later. This reissue doubles the original album’s ten songs with out-takes and alternate versions of album tracks – though they’re the same ones from Sundazed’s 2004 reissue and in the same running order, no less. Esoteric’s reissue features new remastering and liner notes from rock scribe Sid Smith, so there’s a reasonable case to be made for buying it again.