Just in time for the century celebration of suffragism, an artist who has consistently written insightful and purposeful lyrics about womanhood releases her sixth album. The exceptionally well-written and frankly funkalicious sixth album In A Poem Unlimited, sees Meghan Remy a.k.a U.S Girls tackle controversial subjects with intellectual wit, sprinkles of audacious sarcasm and imaginative songwriting.
One of the many impressive attributes to U.S Girls’ previous record Half Free was her decision to write from the perspective of different female characters suffering from different predicaments (infidelity, insecurity, motherhood). By doing this she could explore many crises that can be universally understood by a range of women, without sounding unrealistically like she’d been through all of it.
She continues this writing style effectively on In A Poem Unlimited. For starters, ‘Rage Of Plastics’ is reminiscent of ‘Woman’s Work’ from 2015’s Half Free, because it tells the tale of a woman trapped between a job in a polyester and plastic-making refinery and bringing up a child. Her plans to travel are constantly on hiatus because she can’t leave her responsibilities.
Another song named after a material, ‘Velvet 4 Sale’, is a wonderful fable about comeuppance and reverse role play. Remy turns the world upside down, imagining a time in the future where women also have a thirst for guns and are willing to use them for revenge, whilst sneaking up on the opposite gender in disguise. It’s a hunter-becomes-the-hunted vision and contains the malicious lines: “Then you destroy their hope for the livin’ rinse. Don’t offer no reason. Instil in them the fear that comes with being prey.”
Violence, in its origins and consequences is a common thread throughout the album, with ‘Incidental Boogie’ addressing domestic violence. The victim admits to experiencing the ordeal but carries on with her life like all is ok, either attempting to dilute its importance in a show of strength (its gritty rock suggests this) and defiance or as an act of denial to help her survive. “Hits me left. Hits me right all the time but no marks and no evidence. Don’t you know I’m so lucky that I feel brutalised. I feel closer to him“.
The most controversial topic from the female perspective could be the 1990s latino-urban-gospel ‘Pearly Gates’. An ambitious song that although cleverly blends humour and fantasy, could be seen as blasphemous by religious types. Meghan Remy’s character tries to seduce Saint Peter, the picky bouncer to Heaven, in an attempt to gain free entry to the Promised Land. There’s some great euphemism here: “I could do anything Saint Peter asked for one chance to be an angel in his eyes. Seem to be the safe bet, so I closed my eyes and opened my gates.” Canadian singer James Baley vocalises the thoughts of Saint Peter, who takes advantage of the situation by accepting the proposition but still rejecting her access to Heaven anyway.
Not all subjects are gender-specific as Meghan Remy has a global view on ‘M.A.H’ (Mad As Hell). A swirling disco anthem that surprisingly targets Barack Obama. It’s unforeseen because most musicians are currently taking a swipe at Donald Trump. Remy knows that outside of America, Obama is seen as a charming saviour and she plays on this sacrilege. Contrasting illusion with reality. A great tongue-in-cheek line goes: “You got that winner’s smile. And you know how to leave ’em moist.”
Lyrics aside, In A Poem Unlimited is also hugely impressive musically. With Remy teaming up with Toronto-based instrumental collective The Cosmic Range (which features her husband Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull) who gives the album a multi-layered mix of funk, jazz and old-skool hip-hop beats. Their collaboration is hinted throughout the album (there’s plenty of sax) but really only hits home on the finale ‘Time’, which is such an improvisational and enthralling jamming extravaganza – that could easily get audiences lost if performed on a live stage – that it’s easy to forget it’s part of a U.S Girls album. Just another brave move on a marvellous release that really pushes her poetry to unlimited boundaries.
In A Poem Unlimited is released on 16th February through 4AD.