And you thought they were going to be a footnote of the ‘90s. That “Lump”, “Peaches”, and “Mach 5” were going to be silly memories. That the Presidents were finished and over, nothing left to be played after they broke up in 1997. That that overrated band Nirvana was really what Seattle music was all about. Well, let me tell you something, Jack. You’re wrong on all counts. The Presidents of the United States of America are back. And this time, they’re back for good.
Not that they ever completely went away. In 2000, the band got back together and released Freaked Out and Small quietly, not touring behind it, and then promptly disappeared again. Lead President Chris Ballew released some discs under the name Giraffe, and also worked with the Young Fresh Fellows’ Tad Hutchinson as “Chris and Tad”. Guitarist Dave Dederer played around for a while with ex-Guns and Roses Duff McKagan, and drummer Jason Finn gave stick time to all sorts of local Seattle groups, including the Fastbacks. So the three have been busy, but the call to serve another presidential term must have seemed like a good idea, as here they are once again, serving up Love Everybody in August, 2004.
US: 17 Aug 2004
UK: Available as import
This time around, though, they’re doing it their own way, on their own label, despite having had large offers on the table from the usual major labels. Plus, the band already has an unofficial hit; “Some Postman” was leaked to Seattle’s KNDD and has become a local favorite. So far so good. Can PUSA reclaim old territory? Will they be able to once again rock the masses with their funny brand of minimalist pop? I say yes. I say this is exactly what the country needs to finally shift itself away from the death throes of Bubblegum, Mark II and the phony garage revival that has spat out as many cookie cutter groups as the teen fluff it’s supposedly competing against.
But PUSA have always been in a world of their own. Certainly nothing had ever come from Seattle quite like “Lump”. Of course, there have always been the Young Fresh Fellows, but not even their brand of catchy good time Seattle rock got to crack the mainstream the way PUSA have. And people did truly embrace the group, it wasn’t just some novelty. With their second album, II, the band got even better, with tracks like “Volcano” and “Bath of Fire” expanding the groove while still keeping it fun.
Freaked Out and Small was a real change. Full six string guitars and a bit of a “normal” sound broke into the mix and made the affair a bit of a step back, but it was still a good release. However, Love Everybody brings PUSA back to their roots and finds them once again just having a great time. Indeed, that “Some Postman” truly is catchy as hell. Pop hooks galore, and a chorus that will stay in your mind forever (“Some postman is grooving to all our love letters / Some postman is going to cry”), the song feels right on target, yet fresh all at the same time.
If you loved PUSA already, then this album will just continue that feeling. Ballew and company are still fascinated by the same topics. Whether it be driving (“Highway Forever”; “5,500 Miles”) or cute and furry little animals (“Munky River”), their old recipe for success remains the same. Why mess with it? The 14 tracks offered here are destined to become instant favorites. There’s no bullshit and nothing but pure enjoyment from the title track to the closing sweetness of “Jennifer’s Jacket”.
But the group does offer up some intriguing new sounds along the way to keep things moving forward. “Drool at You” has an absolutely hot guitar riff propelling it along, the likes of which have never been heard on a PUSA album. Then there’s the trashy instrumental funk of “Surf’s Down”, which features some groovy distorted organ rock, and of course, Dederer’s own take on surf guitar. The shimmering “Zero Friction” sounds like PUSA reformatted for the ‘00s with a hot sheen and amped-up choruses at the intro. And “Vestina” bounces along on a great electric piano-based pop melody that out-indies all the other indie groups out there.
So, with all this good stuff jam packed into Love Everybody, it’s hard to see this comeback as anything but a 100% success. The fan base is already built-in, and I would imagine that there are a whole slew of new ears out there thirsty for this kind of sound. That PUSA are so good at what they do and indeed have their own, patented formula of rock and roll can only add to that success. Even when you think you’ve heard it all, the band’s music has always sounded like a fresh alternative to everything else. Yes, the band has always been about giving everyone a good time, but they’ve also always been serious and true to their craft. They certainly could have ended up as an amusing footnote of the ‘90s, but with Love Everybody it’s eminently clear that they’re going to be around for a good, long time. Pop music has never sounded better. It’s certainly great to have these guys back when the nation truly does need a funky-ass set of leaders to give us all a bit of hope.