Song of the Day: The United States of America – The American Metaphysical Circus

This song is from one of my favorite albums. The man behind it, Joseph Byrd, moved from New York (where he was studying under John Cage) to Los Angeles in late 1963. So he did what anyone would do: he joined the Communist party, started an experimental rock band, and called the band The United States of America. Byrd wanted the project to be “an avant-garde political/musical rock group with the idea of combining electronic sound, musical/political radicalism, and performance art.” So, it being the 60s and all, the band was signed to a major label.

Gone are the days of major labels signing experimental psychedelic bands self described as politically radical. But damn, I’m glad those days happened. Like so many of the best psych bands from the 60s, The United States of America only recorded one album. Soon after the album released, the band broke up. Still, they left behind an explosive, cutting edge record. This track is the first on the album, and it really sets the tone for the record. Unlike most psychedelic bands at the time, the band had no guitar player. Instead, Byrd and company relied on strings, bass, keyboards and most notably electronics. Any late 60s band that uses primitive hand-built synthesizers and ring modulators is right up my alley, and Byrd’s use of electronics is exceptional.  He seamlessly incorporates avant-garde influences to his music, which is experimental but still catchy and very melodic. Dorothy Moskowitz’s singing is mesmerizing and fits the band perfectly. Gordon Marron gets a crazy range of tones on his violin, from overdriven lead guitar to 19th century classical. This song, like the whole album, is a trip. Dig it.

Song of the day: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) –– Talking Heads

I’ve been listening to a bunch of cover albums lately, and quite often covers of this song come up (this one’s a good one –– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qWJPglDkB0), and I usually love them. Today, though, the original came on the radio and I remembered how fucking fantastic this song is. “Home is where I want to be/but I guess I’m already there” is weirdly resonant.

Hopefully I’m not alone in thinking that David Byrne is a genius, but even if you’re not a big fan of Talking Heads, I’ve found that even those (foolish) people who aren’t usually into Talking Heads still love this song, so definitely worth a listen.