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Music / The Presidents of the United States of America

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"Naked And Famous" indeed! note 
Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches,
Movin' to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches,
Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches,
Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.
"Peaches"
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To clarify, The Presidents of the United States of America have no actual presidents in their band. Just so we're clear.

The Presidents of the United States of America — also simply known as The Presidents, POTUSA, or simply PUSA; their name is a mouthful even for diehard fans — are an Alternative Rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington in 1993, who went on to release six albums and be twice nominated for Grammy awards. Their style combines the frenetic pace of Punk Rock with Pop, Grunge and Country Music influences, which made them slightly atypical of the Seattle scene. For much of their existence they were made up of vocalist and "basitarist" Chris Ballew, drummer and vocalist Jason Finn with "guitbassist" and backup vocalist Dave Dederer. When Dederer left to settle down and raise a family in the 2000s, Andrew McKeag stepped in to take his place. The "basitar" and "guitbass" were themselves modified guitars, one with two bass strings and the other with three guitar strings, both drop-tuned to C#.

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Originally, the band played their music with a primitive drum machine (as heard on their early demos) before Jason Finn joined. They released their debut, Self-Titled Album in 1995 on PopLlama Records. The record, on the strength of memorable singles like "Lump" and "Peaches," gathered such a following that it was re-released on Columbia Records later that year, and was certified triple platinum. The follow up, II, was certified gold and didn't match the sales or the critical praise of its predecessor. After three years of touring, Ballew decided to spend more time with his kids and called it quits on the Presidents with the release of Pure Frosting, which combined new material with live tracks and demos. Notably, this record contains a cover of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks," and this version became the theme song for The Drew Carey Show.

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The hiatus didn't last long, and the band reformed in 2000 to release a new single, "Jupiter," and thus a new album, Freaked Out & Small. It got good reviews, but sold 25,000 copies, and the band dissolved again only to reform again in 2004 to release Love Everybody, and later These Are the Good Times People in 2008, both on their indie label, PUSA Inc. Their last album, Kudos to You! was released in February of 2014, released via PledgeMusic and preceded by the video for "Poor Little Me."

The group have had a multitude of side projects, most notably Subset, a supergroup with Sir Mix-A-Lot whose album never wound up being released. Additionally, Chris Ballew, a very prolific songwriter, has done (amongst other things) a one-man side project called The Giraffes, made a series of Ambient music tracks, and has released albums of music for kids under the name Caspar Babypants. Yes, really.

In November of 2016, Chris Ballew took to the band's Facebook page to clarify as to why the band hadn't had much activity in the past year and a half - turns out the band decided to hang it up. Or, as Ballew put it, they'd "quietly retired from the PUSA business since we are OLD PEOPLE NOW! ;)"

Thus, the band leaves behind one of the goofiest bodies of work in alternative music this side of Ween.

Album discography:

  1. The Presidents Of The United States Of America (1995) (re-released in a deluxe edition in 2004)
  2. II (1996)
  3. Pure Frosting (1998) (odds & ends compilation)
  4. Freaked Out And Small (2000)
  5. Love Everybody (2004)
  6. These Are The Good Times People (2008)
  7. Kudos To You! (2014)

"Scrolling to the trope list, gonna eat a lotta peaches..."

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: This line from "Lump": "Lump lingered last in line for brains..."
    • This pops up a lot in their music: "So I'll take it for a ride on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon" from "Mach 5"
  • Album Closure: The closing track of II is "Ladies and Gentlemen Part 2," which thanks the audience for listening says goodbye . . . at least until the Hidden Track. The album opens with "Ladies and Gentlemen Part 1" which serves as an Album Intro Track, so the two songs together act as Book Ends.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Last Girl On Earth," detailing the protagonist's horrendous view of his girlfriend, is this trope in spades. That is, until the second verse where it turns out the protagonist actually does have feelings for said girl.
  • Bizarre Instrument: The basitar and guitbass.
  • Book Ends: The first track of II is titled "Ladies and Gentlemen Part I" and the last track on the album (other than the hidden track) is titled "Ladies and Gentlemen Part II". The two songs have the same melody and slightly different lyrics. (The difference is that "I" is an introduction to the performance while "II" is a goodbye to the audience.)
  • Bunny Ears Lawyers: Never mind their silly songs about peaches, kitties, planets, the car from Speed Racer and bugs. A two-string bass and three-string guitar was in itself pretty novel even for the alternative rock landscape. And they sure as hell got hits out of it.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: They're usually more cheeky than outright vulgar, but one exception is "Fuck California," which has a Title Drop four times per verse.
  • Cover Version: Their most famous being Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks," used at the theme song for The Drew Carey Show. They've also done The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star," MC5's "Kick Out The Jams," and The Young Fresh Fellows' "Rock N' Roll Pest Control," the latter of which was featured in an episode of Futurama. They even did the Sex Pistols' "Problems" as a bonus track on a later album, as well as, of all things, the theme from George of the Jungle for the live-action movie.
  • Epic Rocking: Their longest song is on II, and it's the five-minute "Puffy Little Shoes."
  • Excited Show Title!: Kudos To You!
  • Genre-Busting: With their unusual instruments, they can flatten grunge, pop, punk, and even a touch of funk into a quirky little mishmash.
  • Lead Bassist: Chris Ballew, or in this case, "Lead Basitarist", as he is also the lead singer/frontman.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Fuck California" is an upbeat, catchy little number about - what else - their bitter hatred for California. They even name specific towns.
    • Listing Cities: ...which makes the song an enthusiastic subversion of this trope.
  • Long Runner Lineup: The original lineup was Chris Ballew, Jason Finn, and Dave Dederer, which lasted from 1993 to 2005. Dederer left that year, and was replaced by Andrew McKeag, who remained with them till they retired.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: II. Just a blank white background with the band posing in early 20th century attire, for whatever reason.
  • Motor Mouth: The bridge on "Back Porch." Especially live!
  • Non-Indicative Name: As mentioned above, it's just a ridiculous name for the sake of itself. Just for fun, on the inside of the original release of their self-titled debut, the band actually posed with Bill Clinton himself.
  • One-Woman Song: "Vestina" from Love Everybody.
  • One-Word Title: A few of their songs, and possibly the II album, depending on how it's interpreted. There are no spaces, in any case:
    • "Vestina" from Love Everybody.
    • "Supermodel" and "Supersonics", which are also Portmantitles because they're compound words.
  • Overly-Long Name: To the point it took three lines to spell in their album, and abbreviations are common (PUSA, The Presidents or Pot USA).
  • Performance Video: "Mach 5" parodies this trope mercilessly.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Fuck you, kitty, you're gonna spend the night..... OUTSIDE!!!"
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The band rewrote the lyrics of their song "Supermodel" and released it as "Supersonics", a tribute to Seattle's (now non-existent) NBA franchise.
  • Rock Trio: One of the goofiest, most good-natured trios in rock, hands down. To the point that, as mentioned above, they're not a traditional guitar-bass-drums trio given the "hybrid" stringed instruments.
  • Self-Deprecation
    "We're not gonna make it (oh no!), we're not gonna make it
    Cause there's a million better bands with a million better songs...
    • The lyrics for Lump mention "Lump lingered last in line for brains, and the one she got was sorta rotten and insane". The song is partially based on Chris Ballew's experience with a brain tumor, meaning the brain in question is his.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In latter-day performances, when they perform "Lump," they end the song with the Forrest Gump line that finishes off "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of it, "Gump".
      "And that's all I have to say
      ABOUT THAT!"
    • "Fuck California" references "Green Onions" by Booker T & The MGs in its lyrics. The general groove sounds similar to that song, too.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Dave was lead vocalist in "Superstar." Both Dave and Jason get a verse to themselves in "Toob Amplifier."
  • The Stoic: The titular "Lump" seems to be a girl who has this as her general demeanor. She might actually cross the line into Empty Shell, depending on how you interpret Chris Ballew's Word Salad Lyrics.
  • Studio Chatter: The song listed above, "We Are Not Going To Make It," has a false start where they muck up a take, keep rolling and start over (somehow, it seems appropriate).
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "Carolyn's Booty."
  • Suddenly Shouting: The running joke in "Fuck California" is that every stanza is punctuated by either a Title Drop or "fuck [Californian town]." At one point Chris Ballew just snaps:
    "This city is so beautiful, the clouds come out in the fall and I love to see them back, and FUCK California!!!"
  • Title Track: Of their six albums, only Love Everybody has one.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Okay, they're not Beck weird, but they're still pretty weird.
    • "Twig", one of their weirder songs, was apparently written as an Affectionate Parody of Beck's lyrics (an early version was released by Caspar & Mollusk, which was basically a one-time collaboration between Chris Ballew and Beck). A sample lyric:
      I'm happy feeling crappy in your nappy little car
      Squozen frozen duplicated drunk in a bar
      Tape recorded all distorted genius machine
      Spokesmodel dipped in refried beans


Alternative Title(s): The Presidents

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