The Presidents of the United States of America
Rating: 8
   People think this is a joke band, but they're only funny in a couple places ("Fuck you, kitty, you're gonna spend the night... OUT SIDE!"), and heck, even Barbra Streisand does that. What they are, is, instead: a) weird, and b) brilliant.
   Brilliant because they decided what they wanted to do (ROCK!) and determined the most efficient method possible. They've removed all unnecessary elements, including strings (the guitar has just 3 strings, the bass only 2, and - get this - the drums have none at all!) In fact, Kim Thayil's guest spot only demonstrates the tragic consequences of access to all 6 strings. Other ephemeral elements gone by the wayside include solos, extended intros and outros, and third verses. The phrase "all killer no filler" has never been more apt (your opinion of "killer" may vary, but there is definitely no "filler".)
   Weird because the topics of the songs range from nonsensical to absurd. You've got spiders driving dune buggies, monkeys playing guitars, the devil creating ice cream, and an ode to peaches. None of this is particularly funny, and in fact the only missteps come when the band comments on its own absurdity ("Feather Pluckn"). The oddball factor is wonderful, though - if you have a taste for this sensibility, it's great to be able to rock out in a surrealist way.
   Lyrics aside, what makes this album great is the endless supply of terrific riffs and hook-filled melodies. They may be recycled (I'm not much of an expert on punk rock), but this band plays them with flair and concision. No sloppy drumming, no overloaded amps, just good tight riffs with attention paid to dynamics and production. What's especially appealing are the little touches, like the harmonies on "Boll Weevil" and the rubber band effect on the bass during "Body."
   I recommend this attitude to all bands - a little efficiency never hurt anybody.

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