GEM U.S. Girls Introduced New Album Music
GEM is unquestionably a weaker album than the two records that follow it, but anyone who likes Half Free or In a Poem Unlimited should listen to this. It’s true that there’s more filler here, even at its comparatively short length-I can remember nothing about “Don’t Understand That Man”, “Down in the Boondocks” is an unnecessary cover (why didn’t she include the fantastic cover of “I Don’t Have a Mind of My Own” she did for the FatCat sessions, I’d like to know), and “Curves” is unnecessary radio chatter that should be a lot more evocative than it is.
Which is a shame, because this record is, if nothing else, evocative. It sounds like eerie radio stations, like road houses in liminal spaces, like a woman losing her mind on the interstate. Meghan Remy genuinely loves pop music, and that shines through in almost every song. “Another Color”, for instance, sounds like 60s girl group pop with the heartbreak and desperation turned way up (it doesn’t hurt that Remy’s voice is often a dead ringer for a 60s girl group singer). “Jack” is a sleazy, sexy stomp, drawing from 50s rock-and-roll as well as 70s glam. Elsewhere, things get less obvious-take “Rosemary”, centered around heavy, almost plodding verses and choruses backed by elephantine guitar riffs. It could be boring, but the way Remy imbues lines like “and to be my wife!” with frustrated desperation pulls it through.
GEM will probably continue to be overlooked in comparison to Half Free and In a Poem Unlimited , because those records are centered more on songcraft than atmosphere. However, three of the best songs of Remy’s career are on this album, and anyone with even a slight interest in US Girls should listen to them. The first is “Work From Home”, built on a skittering drum machine and a truly addicting keyboard pattern as Remy sings about the joys of prostitution. It’s a chintzy, seedy song with a deceptively dark atmosphere, making lines like “when money gets tight, loosen up your thighs” stick out. Smear on makeup and strut around your bedroom to it.
The closer, “North on 45”, is an excellent end to the album, exposing GEM ‘s glitter-caked heart. Remy sings a lovely, plaintive melody during the verses, accompanied by evocative piano chords. It sounds like someone leaving their small Midwestern town after tragedy to drive all around the country, and even though it has a bit of an ungainly chorus (that’s still catchy as fuck), it’s quite affecting.