[sic] Magazine

U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited

Newly naturalised Canadian Meg Remy is playing the long-game. Now at the business end of a three-pronged, pro-feminist attack with her new album, In A Poem Unlimited, it’s a trajectory that first started way back in 2012 with her shimmering and aptly named Gem album and then continued on her 4AD debut, Half Free, a few years later. A long way from her scratchy, art-noise days, she’s now making important, experimental alt-pop with a message. Half Free was a no-holds-barred account of what it is to be a woman in a today’s society and – still as vital as ever – it touched on subjects as wide-ranging as liberty, war widows, low self-esteem and abusive relationships all over the sounds of undulating dub, ice-cool Italo-disco, melancholy beats, sophisticated blends of piano and strings and – necessarily – over violent vignettes too. Equally angry but again equally restrained, In A Poem Unlimited – her sixth LP overall – picks up seamlessly, examining the old adage that power corrupts (no prizes for guessing the principal target there), as well as looking inwardly at the lies people of all walks of life, herself include, frequently tell.

The most obvious of the bunch, lead single “M.A.H.”, which stands for “mad as hell” and is a collaboration with Toronto-based instrumental collective The Cosmic Range, and features arrangements by long-time contributors Maximilian Turnbull and Louis Percival, deploys strangled, Girl Group-style disco by way of a call for pacifism. It’s also a lot more fun than it sounds. Just as varied as her last outing, album standout “Pearly Gates” seems to borrow a melody from Warren G’s “Regulate” and pits it against rousing gospel backing while the noir “Rage Of Plastics” is a super-sultry blast of sax noise and percussive beats with a sassy strut that’s just irresistible. Campfire hippy protest this isn’t.

Sequestered within these highlights come croaky skits, slow-burning synth-pop, lurching New Wave laments and weirdo, squigging FX that run riot over stately lollops. Not done there, “Incidental Boogie” is a maximalist and roboticised pop jam that plays havoc with the EQ and “Rosebud”, in turn, is little more than a buzzed-out groove that affords Remy the space to coo impressively while elsewhere her vocal is all over the map. There’s even a hint of New Order in the key and oscillator programmes in “Poem” too, all roads – no matter how diverse – nonetheless ultimately leading to the wild 8-minute closer. A party pleaser of sorts, “Time” peels off quick-fire funk to the accompaniment of throaty bass work before indulgent guitar solos clear the air for baying sax that begins a process of denouement, the whole thing unravelling into bare-bones percussion. It’s not the most coherent of climaxes, but Remy’s precise channelling of her disaffection with current society has to fall off the rails periodically because there’s only so far you can get with being polite. It’s also clear that this particular crusade is far from over yet.

Best track: “Pearly Gates”

~In A Poem Unlimited is out now via 4AD.~