USSA: The Spoils 

If the name Paul Barker flips a light on in that kaleidoscope of memory between your ears, then his new band, USSA, will probably be your cup of tea. Barker was the less vocal half of Ministry, one of the big bands in the late-90s emergence of industrial, and while USSA doesn't work in that cacophonous vein, there's no doubt they share a few ancestors. Having teamed up with Duane Denison, who still splits eardrums with ex-Faith No More singer Mike Patton in Tomahawk, Barker and the men of USSA are intent on bringing bass-heavy, melodic rock to the world with their first album, The Spoils.

From the opening thump of "Dead Voices" to the sludge-crawl whine of album closer "Wasteland," it's clear that these guys like their rock. Unlike some previous projects from these august fellows, however, the rest of the music doesn't take a back seat to the beat. There's a real absence of fuzz and grind in these songs, allowing the vocals from Nashville studio vet Gary Call to be heard without having to guess what he's singing (or howling). You might not be able to dance to these songs without some Doc Martens on your feet, but they sure as hell got a good beat. Johnny Rabb does a fine job of pounding the skins, but it's Barker is unmistakable bass that propels USSA's sound.

Of course, if what you really want is to revisit the Jesus Lizard brand of noise rock or the howling screech on steroids that Ministry's been doing lately, USSA will not be for you. Barker and Denison seem intent on honoring their influences and past work without copying said projects, and the result is edgy, sometimes creepy and never less than entertaining. USSA might be a side project for now, but if this album is any indication, it's a lineup worth keeping.

—Brandon Nolta

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