Release Date: Mar 4, 2008
Record label: United Interests
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
So-called Johnny Appleseed descendant Jesse Elliott is stuck in a sometimes pleasant, sometimes obnoxiously pretentious rut on this album whose rather goofy title should scare anyone who wouldn't be interested in the album's equally overdone lyrics. Elliott clearly sees himself as some sort of poetic chronicler of roadside America here, offering up 12 verbose, loungey explorations of American life. But any insights are lost behind a reliance on painfully rhymed clichés and grade-school caliber metaphors.
Teaming D.C.'s Jesse Elliott and David Strackany (aka Paleo), These United States' debut is, as the title suggests, an exploration of exile and frustration of paradise just beyond reach. Elliott's scratchy voice rolls like a more soulful M. Ward, but his easy barrage of lyrical contortions evokes Andrew Bird's songbook, rhymes and alliteration unfolding in effortless streams ("Slow crows over a gold October, you're sitting getting colder as Van Gogh sobers").
“I feel for Jonah: I too am a lonely butcher trying to carve a little piece out of this whale of a great big future.” That’s not Jesse Elliott at his best, but it’s as good a place as any to start picking apart the fanciful mess that is A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden. It comes in the middle of a pretty, earthy song called “So High So Low So Wide So Long,” which is probably the best on the album and which is, like all the others, a diffuse meditation on a romantically wayward lifestyle that may or may not exist. It’s a ridiculously overcooked metaphor, but the idea behind it isn’t bad.