Despite the extremely dodgy band names, this is actually a relatively likable tape. Sadly, The Ethiopians captured here are not the seminal reggae band. Obviously, it would have been quite a coup for Marlo Eggplant to talk them into reforming to release a tape through her distro (especially since Stephen Taylor got run over by a truck). That didn’t happen though. Instead, these Ethiopians are a Nuggets-style garage rock band from Cleveland. It is hard to tell if they have any unique attributes, as everything seems to be recorded in the red, but they certainly sound appropriately raw, swaggering, and bad-ass. The vocals, for the most part, are kind of a fuzzed-out Mark E. Smith sneer. While that obviously oozes with cool, it leaves the melodic burden in the hands of rest of the band with mixed results. Sometimes they are merely competent (if enthusiastic), but other times they turn out surprisingly awesome hooks like the spooky surf guitar lead in “Dirty Glue” or the stomping groove and molten soloing in “Dirty Swag.” In fact, it seems that they are only at their best when the word “dirty” appears in a song title. That said, their side of the tape concludes with an unexpectedly melodic acoustic waltz with an uncharacteristically catchy group-sung refrain. To their credit, The Ethiopians still manage to sound overdriven and nihilistic even when they are wielding acoustic guitars. Fun stuff.
USSA Pleasuredome sounds nothing at all like The Ethiopians, making for an odd pairing. “Dream Sequence For A Chase Scene” kicks things off on an unusual note, as it manages to evoke the paradoxical atmosphere of its title perfectly. It is built upon a very propulsive, busy, and dramatic bed of clean guitars and conventional shuffling drums, but weirdly liquid guitars swoop sleepily over the top of it all. The second track (“Kokology 9”) plunges much deeper into hallucinatory weirdness, as wind noises and bell tones form a disorienting haze around a treated voice reciting a text about the correlation between musical instruments and sexual prowess. It doesn’t get any less strange for the next three songs, either. USSA Pleasuredome has a rather odd aesthetic: employing very traditional, and largely unmanipulated, rock tools to try to forge something dreamlike and psychedelic. It is sometimes interesting and sometimes not (one song just sounds like bad dubstep), but it usually ends too quickly or shifts gears too rapidly to be very satisfying. I have no idea if this is an accurate representation of the USSA Pleasuredome experience or just a collection of odds and ends, as the five songs here span an entire decade. Regardless, the whole thing is too unfocused and sketch-like for me to really want to hear any more. 6/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (24 March, 2010)