In an election year, each candidate argues that his or her vision of America is the real one and that the other candidate’s is not. But there are 300 million of us, and there are 300 million ways to be an American.
Consider three very different bands whose names stake a claim to representing our country. Formed at UCLA in 1967, the United States of America was one of the first rock bands to make electronics a big part of its sound. Formed in Seattle in 1993, the Presidents of the United States of America are an alternative rock band known for goofy songs like the hit “Lump.” Formed in Brooklyn by songwriter Jesse Elliott, These United States plays a country-inflected form of indie rock.
Elliott claims to be a descendant of Johnny Appleseed, so he knows a thing or two about symbolic claims to America. Not only is the band named These United States, but its new fifth album is also named These United States.
These United States is closely associated with bands such as Deer Tick and the Mynabirds, whose music draws from folk and country traditions. And, as with those bands, Elliott’s music is probably too eccentric for a more traditional audience. His songs are decorated with folky harmonies and country steel guitar, and his lyrics are full of references to the road and wide-open spaces. But his voice is creaky and he’s fond of tempo changes and psychedelic instrumental passages. Onstage, these are a big part of the show. On record, they’re as weird and unpredictable as any of the other bands named after our country. Almost as weird as us.
THESE UNITED STATES: Casbah, Thursday, August 30, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10 advance/$12 door.