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U.S. Girls strike an upbeat, equanimous pose on Bless This Mess

"Bless This Mess"

Release date: 24 February 2023
U.S. Girls - Bless This Mess cover
21 February 2023, 09:45 Written by John Amen

Over six albums, including 2015’s Half Free and 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, Meghan Remy, a.k.a. U.S. Girls, honed her brand of eclectic pop, crafting elegant audial collages and cultivating a distinctly sociopolitical slant.

Her seventh LP, 2020’s Heavy Light, landed as an emotional coda, Remy navigating the despair that often follows a period of pronounced anger or protest. Throughout the sequence, she searched for (and fleetingly found) stable ground, meaning, and catharsis in a polarized and volatile world.

Her new album, Bless This Mess, shows Remy pulling off another intriguing reinvention. On one hand, a sense of uncomplicated buoyancy oozes from the tracks, Remy assuring us, “Nothing is wrong / everything is fine.” But with an artist as complexly articulate as Remy, one can’t help but consider: are we actually encountering sarcasm? A tongue-in-cheek commentary from a pitch-savvy maestro painfully aware that the global ship is sinking?

Additionally, Remy’s new tracks are more slickly produced, built around retro and upbeat sounds: the Motown/Tamla accents of Stevie Wonder, the disco of Donna Summer, the club vibes of Madonna, and even the house cadences of Daft Punk. Is this a straightforward endorsement of The Pleasure Principle, perhaps a version of nihilistic positivity, or is Remy playing a mock Nero who dances while the blue orb burns?

Though the irony is possible, it also seems safe to take Remy at face value. Opener “Only Daedalus” is a synth-driven and loungey track, Remy employing the Greek myth as a way to playfully address the labyrinthine nature of life. “Just Space for Light” brings to mind a karaoke track unwinding in an airport bar, brimming with casual references to an electro-funk gestalt. “Screen Face”, meanwhile, embraces an easy-listening vibe, Remy satirizing the experience of virtual dating.

“Futures Bet” functions as a manifesto of inclusiveness (“I’m you / you’re me”), Remy dropping the more pugilistic stance of earlier work. An understated rhythmic welter points to the likely impact of Sophie and early Arca. A '70s-esque guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a Screaming Females track energizes the tune midway, conjuring scenes of flickering lighters in a dark arena.

“Thank the sky for the deluge / forget your nightmares and the dreams that didn’t come true,” Remy offers on the title song, her melody and cadence oddly awkward, due in part to overcrowded phrasing. “RIP Roy G Biv” fetes the rainbow and the progressive vision it represents, bypassing mention of right-wing shove-back. It’s slightly bewildering to witness an artist as critically versed as Remy sustain such an equanimous pose. On one hand, the it’s-all-good attitude is refreshing, like a palate cleanser after a heavily spiced entrée; on the other hand, it lands as platitudinous, even cliché.

When, on closer “Pump”, however, Remy offers what occurs as the philosophic underpinning of the album (“Bodies birth death machines / four immense things we have in common”), it becomes clear that she does indeed want to “bless this mess” that is reality and our lives. It’s unsurprising, then, that her latest project riffs on the position, espoused by everyone from Jesus to Beyoncé, that empathy will serve humanity and the planet better than rage. As we negotiate the flesh we inhabit, the involuntary sagas of arrival and demise, and the paradoxes of technology, the optimistic vibes unfold, the party persists.

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