Album: Laredo

Artist: Usa/Mexico

Label: 12XU

Release Date: June 30, 2017

The Upshot: Bludgeoning, distorted sludge from the Austin supergroup, and the aural equivalent of a hostage situation.


Though there will be naysayers to this monolith o’ sludge, there will be soothsayers, too, proclaiming Austin trio USA/MEXICO as (to quote, uh, some dude back in the ‘70s) rock ‘n’ roll future. Indeed, as guitarist Craig Clouse (Shit & Shine), bassist Nate Cross (Marriage), and King Coffey (Butthole Surfers) envision things, there’s no greater calling on God’s green-but-growing-toxic Earth than to accurately portray modern existence as a nightmarish, deafening, Dantean routine wrought by our own miscalculations. And given its name, the band could also be a sonic representation of the toxic relations between the two titular countries as long as Trump is in office.

At numerous points on Laredo one is bludgeoned into the proverbial submission via the Coffey-Cross doomsday rhythm machine; imagine an early Hawkwind album, stripped of its high-end sonics and the low end ones being slowed to 16rpm, plus Clouse’s Cookie Monster vocals with all the cookies’ sweeteners removed and replaced by arsenic prior to baking, then duly spun at a leaden number of rpms. It should all be a recipe for migraines, such are the volume and distortion levels— attending a USA/MEXICO concert must surely be like an aural hostage-taking, whereby all attendees are shoved into a cinder block-lined room located directly under the wooden stage.

Yet there’s also a terrifying beauty on display here, not all that removed from early Swans albums and shows. (Although songs like psychedelic crack-up “Yard of the Month” and the thuggish “Dumber Rock Riff” make early Swans sound like Simon & Garfunkel.) A nominally “melodic” cover of the Fall’s “L.A.” (all hissing sonics and a recognizable descending chord progression) is reasonable enough, and rousing closing track “Bullets For Pussy,” also a cover (post-Drunks With Guns outfit Bullets For Pussy) brings to mind Black Sabbath reworking the Byrds’ “8 Miles High.” But for the Trump era. So it’s all a matter of perspective.

Perspective: warped. Vinyl record (w/download card): non-warped. Ear canal: fully cleansed. Tinnitus status: returned dammit; but my doctor warned me.

DOWNLOAD: “Bullets For Pussy,” “Yard of the Month”


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