Review Summary: Harmless indietronica for the masses... with a pulse.
It's not often that a band releases a single as infectious as "Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole". Nonsensical title aside, the Toronto duo of Ashley Buscholz and Human Kebab released a single that is every bit as energetic as it is restrained. Knowing when to get exciting but also knowing when to hold back, "Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole" came off an understandably popular E.P. entitled Welding the C:/
, and was the soundtrack to almost every Canadian indie music fan's iPod playlist in 2008. And a year later, fans were hit with a big surprise- U.S.S. would release a full length album which showed the band trying to top "Hollowpoint" in every way imaginable.
U.S.S. can only be described as a mix of early Pendulum and Metric. That may not seem like a combo that goes together, but it works a lot better than one would think. Questamation
is mostly made up of guitar-heavy anthems that both the hipsters and the pedestrian music listeners will find a way to enjoy. If you're looking for anything deep, well, you won't find it here, because Questamation
is mostly harmless, and it's for the better. And don't be surprised if you get some tracks stuck in your head for days. Beginning with "Cloudboy", a tune with an intro reminiscent of the opening theme to A Clockwork Orange
before slamming into a floored-pedal DnB style rocker and ending with "Me vs. Us, a rather dark album closer, Questamation
is never boring and is always fun to listen to.
However, one thing that drags the album down, as Mike Stagno correctly pointed out, is that much of the album is filled with attempts to recapture the surprise success that "Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole" was, and with how (eerily at times) similar some songs like "Neurochemical Warfare Gas Masquerade" and "Anti-Venom" sound to "Hollowpoint", it does take away from how objective the album tends to be. Only two of the songs are really different, and one of them is the only weak track: "Stationary Robbery". It's a track that feels really out of place and with a hilarious chorus like "Stationary robbery/I stole your pen, so you can't even write again
", you'd expect there to be more to this awkward rap track. But it feels really just useless and like an attempt to pad the album out. However, the other "different" track is a funky tune in the form of "Laces Out", a catchy dance tune that you would likely hear at a few glowstick parties.
However, this isn't such a problem when much of the tracks are high in quality. The aforementioned "Cloudboy" is reminiscent of Wendy Carlos' score for A Clockwork Orange
and with a rather interesting (to say the least) attempt at serious lyrics, it makes for a strong and punchy opener. Arguably the best track is "Neurochemical Warfare Gas Masquerade", which begins and ends with sound samples of Native Tribes being invaded, is heavy on synth strings and is arguably just heavy period. It's short and sweet and effectively mixes jangly acoustic guitars with heavy electric guitars. "Anti-Venom" is their single that I'm sure your grandmother even has heard by now, and it's pretty much not hard to see why it's easy single bait. Catchy and infectious, and at times similar to "Hollowpoint". "Stranger to Myself" is perhaps one of the best and most emotional pieces of the album, where Buscholz's vocals really shine. And sure he doesn't have a great voice, but it's serviceable at least- here it really shines, in fact it's where his eerie vocal similarities to Rob Swire really show.
After all is said and done, Questamation
is a harmless indietronica record with influences of hard rock and DnB, mostly catchy tracks that are easily accessible and unpretentious, and really, what more is there to say? Their sense of humour is evident in the tracks too, with random vocal samples and even an interlude that sounds like the title screen to an arcade fame. The main thing is, while they may not go down as one of the better bands, U.S.S. are a band with mad potential, and this album will leave you awaiting the next and asking, "next time, can they do more to transcend their music and not have it just be merely catchy?"