The Joup Friday Album: The United States of America

usaalbumAs “The American Metaphysical Circus” begins, the atmosphere is indeed akin to that of a circus, a hodgepodge of sounds swirling along together in an audio soup. Ragtime dances play with classical marches and jazz numbers before subsiding as the electronic pulses take over and a female voice beckons you in. The mood is progressive. The ideas are many. The palette is open to an array of new sounds. Welcome to one of the most fantastic and experimental psych rock records of the 1960’s, the self-titled, sole release from The United States of America.

This psychedelic, political beast, primarily the brainchild of band members Joe Byrd and Dorothy Moskowitz, finds its origins in leftist, Communist thought and broad experimentation. Elements of hard psych rock, lighter west coast folk, jazz, prog rock, classical music, and electronic sound paired with counter culture political ideas make for a record that sounds immediately of its time, but also hints that it may have been far ahead of it as well. Bands like Broadcast and Stereolab obviously drew influence from its notes and textures, and it practically sounds like the blueprint for every obscure album that the folks at Finders Keepers have been able to unearth over the last decade. There’s the guitar freakouts of “Hard Coming Love,” and the floating dreamworks of “Cloud Song.” There’s the Dixieland jazz nods of “I Won’t Leave my Wooden Wife for You, Sugar,” and the gentle, wistful airiness of “Love Song for the Dead Ché,” before everything comes to a looping, fragmented, almost calamitous head on “The American Way of Love.” The album never misses, and despite the group’s ultimate and imminent demise, the result of normal interpersonal band bullshit, its sounds live on with the sonic freaks that continue to use and cite them.

I first heard this record over a decade ago at a record convention in Austin. I was probably shopping around for releases by obscure 80’s post-punk bands or 60’s garage rock nuggets when I came across the excellent album cover for The United States of America. Some stinky, old hippie and record enthusiast then talked my ear off about how amazing the record was, and being the young and impressionable record collector that I was back then, I bought it up.

I’m still glad that I did. Three cheers for stinky, old hippies!

Listen to the record below, and I encourage you to go out and buy the damn thing post haste. Sundazed reissued it in 2004 with ten extra tracks, and it’s readily available and waiting for you.


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Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit

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