U.S. Girls – Sororal Feelings (in Copenhagen)
U.S. Girls @ Hotel Cecil, May 6th 2018 – live review by Ivna Franic.
So apparently 2018 is the year I finally get to see some of my old underground heroes such as Félicia Atkinson, Circuit des Yeux and U.S. Girls live for the first time. About a decade since they’ve started out as experimental solo outings, some of them have gradually evolved into actual bands. And while Circuit des Yeux’s show a few months back suffered from letting the band run loose with a dash too many jamming moments, U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy keeps her 8-piece (!) ensemble focused throughout the show, any eventual jam out perfectly finding its place in the song’s dramaturgy.
U.S. Girls kick the show off with a few of the opening tracks off their exquisite recent LP In a Poem Unlimited with “Rage of Plastics”, an intense cover of Simone Schmidt’s Fiver track, being an obvious standout. Between some of those songs, a sample is played to “encourage you not to tell women what to do”. Remy and her assistant singer give voice to an array of different female characters – factory worker, victim of domestic violence considering revenge, disappointed voter – forming a compelling narrative on different ways in which women are opressed in today’s society – by their partners, employers, politicians and social structures.
The straight-out pop potential of Remy’s 2017 smash hit “Mad as Hell”, a critique of Obama’s presidency brilliantly disguised as a love song, unfortunately gets a little lost in the live version. Most other songs, though, succesfully survive the transition, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given that they had gained their album form through band sessions. Both on record and live, “Rosebud” is perhaps the smoothest U.S. Girls have ever sounded. Another standout, “Pearly Gates” emerges as the single that perhaps best represents their current sound and live show, with the keyboard player and backing vocalist acting as a choir that fiery sings the chorus against Remy’s verses.
One of the few moments in which a song is allowed to end with a long jam part is wisely used as an intro to another one. The two songs in question, “Navy and Cream” and “Window Shades” are, along with “Sororal Feelings”, the only tracks from US Girls’ previous record Half-Free to get live rendition on this occasion. However, that does not mean that the rest of the set was entirely devoted to the new record – an even older fan favourite “The Island Song” got a rock’n’roll revamp. Looking back on it, that choice probably wasn’t a coincidence since this song was among the first to hint at U.S. Girls’ potential to transition from an obscure, noisy lo-fi project into a pop/rock powerhouse.
Although samples and loops may not form the main core of Remy’s music anymore, it is still heavily inspired by music and motives from all over the place, and her latest record is yet another masterful collage of popular music sounds and powerful stories. Serving largely feminist lyrics in the ultimate dude music form of rock’n’roll, in a scarcely lit setting that emanates a vibe of a random roadside bar, proves to be an ingenious move that subtly plays with both its likely target audiences. Turns out rock music can still be subversive; too bad that U.S. Girls seem to be a rare music act to get that.