U.S. Girls – Gem
Meghan Remy, a.k.a. U.S. Girls, doesn’t pay bills or shop for groceries like everybody else, she rides a glittery swan, wearing a jeweled turban. Like Grey Gardens’ sublime designer Little Edie, U.S. Girls creates the best costume of the day with decrepit treasures. From her earliest live performances in mid-90s Portland, Remy advanced with a play-first-ask-questions-never sensibility, bypassing any skill-set prerequisite with 7-minute long live sets, recording on a vintage four track to make a small batch of CD-Rs to sell at shows. A slew of 7-inches, cassingles, compilation appearances, and four LPs later, Gem combines lo-fi electronics and the shady accompaniment of a busted drum machine, two stomp boxes and an ailing reel-to-reel tape deck with thick layers of static fuzz, and vocals oozing with passion.
Toronto-based musician/actor/producer Slim Twig shares her love of ’50s and ’60s pop noir as heard through the auteur-ship of producers such as Joe Meek and Tony Visconti. Similarly, Remy finds herself lured toward that desirous core, predictably found in girl groups such as the Ronettes and the Crystals, or further afield, in lone Americana like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but the trickiest feat lies in her esoteric ventures of reinvention, covering such oddities as leisure-suited B.J. Thomas’ “I Don’t Have a Mind of My Own,” or reworking the Contemporary R&B slickness of Brandy/Monica’s “The Boy is Mine” into a blunt object of no-wave dissolution. Irony can be an easy out for such an approach, yet Remy maintains the focus needed to dismantle any outside perspective from its base, leaving her elementally alone with a song’s raw emotive source.
Gem is her most accessible pop LP to date, with Remy’s voice leading more than before. “Work from Home” charms like a Ronnie Spector seizured warble atop synth-driven chanting orders from Mothra’s twin fairies. “Jack” covers Brock Robinson’s 1991 Jack the Ripper inspiration, imagined here as an intoxicating glam delusion of a starry-eyed predator with a slinky drawl. Pop structure appears more, but avant-garde textures remain Remy’s signature. The opening track, “Another Color” is a deep space transmission which overstays its welcome, but “Don’t Understand That Man,” is doused in a vibrating thicket of warbling strings, and “Curves,”a transistor spliced collage, begs for the next U.S. Girls video. A nod and a wink to the impresario himself, “Slim Baby” nails that mid-era T. Rex of thick, glam circuitry, reigning supreme with anthemic proportions.