With titles like “Rage Of Plastics,” “Mad As Hell,” it quickly becomes apparent that on her sixth album, art-pop chanteuse Meg Remy, aka U.S. Girls, is feeling a little perturbed. Maybe it’s Trump, maybe it’s Weinstein, maybe it’s the whole #metoo shebang, but she’s even more fed-up than she was on 2015’s Half Free. An album filled with character sketches of women in less-than desirable situations, Half Free encased philandering partners, dead husbands and the women they wronged inside Remy’s artful mix of samples. The result was a kind of twisted, multi-author memoir told through avant-garde takes on golden oldies.
This time around, she’s traded in the samples for a live band (collaborating with instrumental collective the Cosmic Range) and left behind the Ronettes for the hedonistic sounds of disco and the 70s club scene. “I was 24/I was doing my time on the dance floor/It was all polyester/And leopard,” she sings at the top of “Rage Of Plastics,” setting the sweaty scene for us over cosmic, lava lamp guitar and squawking sax. She sounds in control, confident, but like so many other stories, this one ends in a familiar way, with Remy’s surrogate subject putting her plans on hold “for this refinery job and his babies.”
Throughout, there’s a dynamic contrast of ultra-femininity with talk of violence, power, and crouching wrath. On “Velvet For Sale,” though her voice is petal-soft, surrounded by Donna Summer breathing and the unmistakable wah-wah of ‘70s exploitation-flick soundtracks, she’s got blood on her mind. “It’s all just fiction,” she sings sweetly, “But don’t forget the revenge.” “Mad As Hell,” with its dance-ready beat and Remy’s take on “Heart Of Glass” vocals, is straight disco fantasy as she rails against political deception—an ingenious take on anti-war protest meets Studio 54.
Not that the album is one note. Rem is as mercurial as ever, shapeshifting her voice and the music surrounding it as easily as she switches characters. When she steps out of the ‘70s and into another club decade with the chill-house beat of “Rosebud,” she sounds a bit like Madonna as she coos zingers like “It’ll hurt/I promise” as if they’re sweet nothings. She looks for a resolution on “Poem,” electronic gurgles and glitches swirling around her most pointed question, “So what are we gonna do to change?”
Just like on Half Free, she ends with a bang, stretching out the fast-paced closer “Time” to just under eight minutes. “There is still time” she assures us as passionate guitar solos, funky bass, and a hi-hat heavy beat all vibrate with an urgency that makes it seem like there’s really not. When her vocals out around the 2:30 mark, she’s replaced by freak sax blasts and heady guitar scribbles—like a rare Sun Ra 45 crossed with a classic disco 12” mix—ending the album with as much creative force and mystery as it began.