Super Imposition (demos)

by United Shapes

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A Review of United Shapes' Super Imposition
by Ramón Ramirez

Joseph Devens is a lonely humanist with a comedian’s intuition. He drinks a lot of coffee. He’s fascinated by teeth. He’s got a thing for a painter named Heather Day. He’s also a Facebook friend of mine and I remember him fondly from semesters spent sharing a stressful and manic newsroom. That’s the disclosure part, because the Web is full of people blogging about their friends. But he’s also a man I haven’t physically seen since, I think, early 2008. As such we’ve spent the Obama presidency as dueling wannabes on mutual timelines. What I’m saying is, hey man, I barely know the guy you said it was cool to invite people. His songwriting reveals him as a torn pragmatist—hungry for a routine but haunted by the triviality of serene relationships. As the chief technician and one half of Austin, Texas, indie rockers United Shapes, he’s a multitasking insomniac that knows rock’s insides. The band’s seventh album, Super Imposition, is loose and full of trap doors: hand-claps, harmonizing, hooks, elastic synths, xylophone pings, and Moneyball trombones. The resulting pop suite is a shoestring delicacy at its highs—but the lows function as revealing digressions. Devens sings as if every line has been scribbled out and rewritten 10 times; he doesn’t let lyrics exist without blowback. He’ll explore ideas, and find the deadpan gag even if it means serving a winking homage to the wonders of Canadian women, or getting voyeuristic and uncomfortable before unmasking himself as a literal vampire. Daniel Johnston without the unhinged finger-painting comes to mind in terms of the homemade-but-ambitious arrangements; ditto Christopher Owens at his most sardonic. But the offbeat puzzles spilled onto coffee tables by duo They Might Be Giants, of the spiraling and bratty alternative rock, seem to act as the most direct descendants. “Weird Weeds” takes a stab at James Murphy’s nerd dance epics (think “Disco Infiltrator”) but doesn’t quite land or pack the muscle. It’s one of the few spots on the record where the apartment engineering and DIY presentation hinders the final file. At its core, Imposition flattens rock tropes and pushes buttons. “Oliver Hitler” follows the narrative structure of Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy” (misfit kid acts up and this is his song), only here the child is a sociopath who hatches schemes and “doesn’t get nervous when he lies.” “Nobody likes that guy,” Devens concludes. The song remains interesting, worthwhile, but not digestible because of its all-in details—you’re taking in the director’s cut, after all. But by the numbers, the record operates with astute efficiency: nothing is longer than 3 minutes and 42 seconds, eight of the songs are strong, six of the songs are richly dense and gorgeous. I admire the band’s disinterest with conventional endings. “Are We Ours?” asks crushing questions but retains its affection for the song’s subject: “Are you filled up with doubt? Are you desperate and down?” “Charlatan” ends with punishing disdain for unchecked hacks: “Any weatherman who goes to weather school can do what you do.” “Raw Honey” is the rollicking smash single—weird enough for college radio, memorable enough with its sweetheart daze to soundtrack a sitcom intro. While Devens spends 13 songs coming in and out of his anxiety-laden protagonist role, he lands on a compelling feminist moment of clarity that sticks with you: “Hey are you a feminist? I’m a human ain’t I, miss? And I’ve got a heart in my chest, so that makes me one I guess.” It’s an album for people that file complaints, sure, but very few individuals are interesting let alone dynamic storytellers when they’re simultaneously working through their shit.


released March 3, 2015

Drew Cave - guitar, trombone
Joseph Devens - keyboard, guitar, drums, synths, vocals
Written by Devens-Cave
Produced by United Shapes


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United Shapes Austin, Texas

United Shapes are an alt rock duo formed in 2004 by Joseph Devens and Drew Cave. New studio album Compound Shapes drops

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Track Name: Raw Honey
I can feel my heart beat in my chest
When my mouth is pressed against your neck
I can feel my hairs standing on end
When we are becoming more than friends

I can feel the goose bumps on my arms
When I am succumbing to your charms
I can feel you breathing honey breath
When your mouth is pressed against my neck

Don’t need to buy it by the side of the road
Cause honey we can make our own
Raw honey
Smear it on your body in place of clothes
It’s OK if just the two of us know
Raw honey

Alls I ever wanna do is make raw honey with just you
And if you dig this metaphor then you know what raw honey’s for

We can drink it until we get sick
We can both stick out our tongues and lick
Raw honey
We got something only you’s and me’s
Straight from the hardest working worker bees
Raw honey

I can feel the blood rush to my head
When you drag me by my hair to bed
We can put it on our breakfast toast
And if you want I’ll lick it from your toes

We don’t need to go to work today
We can stay inside all day and play
Drinking honey’s all I want to do
You can call me your Winnie-the-Pooh

People selling honey on the street
At the farmer’s market we can eat
Raw honey
We can dip our fingers in the jar
Do it with me baby it’s not hard
Raw honey

We should get a natural sugar high
Then love each other ‘til honey runs dry
Raw honey
When we’re done we’ll smoke a cigarette
Then come inside and start to make it again
Raw honey
Track Name: Hot Kiss
Got a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist
I think that’s why she carries a gun
Three broken ribs right in front of the kids
And then she set a car on fire for fun

Crawlin’ on the floor every night ah
To set the rat traps just right ah
So everybody hang on tight ah

Now I am a man with a girlfriend and
I can hardly wait to tell
Everybody so but I know they’ll go
Did this girl come straight from Hell?

Who in the world would ever like this girl?
I guess I must not be in the world
Got a hot kiss I really like when you’re like this
Vanilla with an arsenic swirl

Got a hot kiss and for my second wish
I wanna take her to where nobody knows
Back of my car or wherever we are
She starts a riot wherever she goes

Got a hot kiss on my Christmas list
And she lets me smell her hair for free
Sometimes I feel like she’s getting a raw deal
But I’m the one she likes to see
Track Name: This Time Only
Some things were said and I said them and I wish that I’d not
And you were nice not to hate me like you would like I thought
I get so mad and sad and scared and then I say stupid things
Yeah I am needy paranoid and jealous I am the king
Of pushing you right to your limit
And you say that I should quit it
And I think that you are right
Because I ruin every minute
When I open my mouth and let shit spill out
So if you want to talk about it talk all the time
And if you want to fight about it fight all the time
But if you want to forget about it this time
We can forget all about it this time only

You kinda hurt me and then I overreacted a bit
But I know that you didn’t mean to and you couldn’t help it
So when I said you didn’t care about me I was all wrong
I never thought that I would write you an apology song
But here it goes I’m really sorry
And I hope that you forgive me
‘Cause I know that you’re my friend
And that you care about me plenty
Even when I open my mouth and let shit spill out
So if you want to talk about it talk all the time
And if you want to fight about it fight all the time
But if you want to forget about it this time
We can forget all about it this time only
Track Name: Weird Weeds
The grass don’t grow
And the mice don’t run
Gather a cloud
If you’re into that stuff

These weird weeds
Please weird weeds

Monster truck church
Liquid miniskirt
Beware of the traps
In these cold hand claps

These weird weeds
Please weird weeds

Dogs and cats
Punch and Judy show
Am I the same
Or did I change somehow

These weird weeds
Please weird weeds
Track Name: Are We Ours?
Will you come to my house
Will you sleep in my bed
Will you bury yourself
Next to me when I’m dead
Will you redden your lips
Show the teeth in your mouth
When you’re sitting right here
Next to me on the couch
Can we play house tonight
Put on each other’s clothes
And then take them right off
So that we are exposed
Are we in love or are we bored out of our minds
Am I yours are we ours are you mine
Will I buy you a ring
With the money I stole
Will you say yes to me
Or do I make your eyes roll
Do you cuddle with me
Is that something you like
Or would you rather sleep
In the cold alone all night
Are you filled up with doubt
Are you desperate and down
Are you only with me
Because there’s no one else around
Are we in love or are we bored out of our minds
Am I yours are we ours are you mine
Can we try this again
With some feeling this time
Maybe you’re not so bad
Maybe I am just fine
Will you come to my house
Will you sleep in my bed
Can you try to forget
Everything that I just said
Are we in love or are we bored out of our minds
Am I yours are we ours are you mine
Track Name: Always A Pleasure
Thank you Audrey
Always a pleasure
How would I go on without
Your constant heckles and threats
If you’ll excuse me
Forgot to mention
That I’m sleeping at your house
And talking down to your pets
Hey now Audrey
Tell me a secret
Drill a hole into the wall
And watch your dad while he works
Your dad’s got dozens
Everybody in the town
Knows what he’s doing in there
She loves me
She loves me not

Something tawdry
All dressed in leather
Drinking coffee ‘til I vomit
Such a terrible flirt
Wrapped in plastic
Dumped on the beach
Now everybody’s going crazy
Keep my mind on my work
Who’s that hiding
Out in the bushes
Keeping tabs on everybody
With binoculars on
3-D glasses
And coconuts
I’d call for backup but I’m scared
Of what they’d do when they come
She loves me
She loves me not

Damn good coffee
And apple pie
I’m feeling weirder every minute
And I’d like to know why
Bachelor party
At One Eyed Jack’s
Spent all my money on French hookers
And some more apple pie
That chalk outline
Looks kind of like me
But I don’t think that my body’s
Ever been here before
Is that Audrey
Behind the wall
Or is her dad playing with miniatures
Sprawled out on the floor
She loves me
She loves me not

Hey now Audrey
I get the message
We can talk about it later
When I’ve gotten some sleep
And done my laundry
And had some coffee
I should thank you ‘cause your helpful
But your kind of a creep
So thank you Audrey
Always a pleasure
You can touch my arm
And look at me with sad puppy eyes
Got to go now
But I’ll be back
To solve your murder
When this town decides that you need to die
Track Name: Charlatan
Where are my roads in the sky?
And why haven’t I ever heard of that guy
Who you said would be up to no good?
Troubling times for the Danube and the Rhine
Did you see a blaze beyond your days?
Why didn’t you say it would happen that way?
The world didn’t end so let’s not pretend
That maybe it did back in 1998
Nobody’s that smart at the dark arts
Close but no cigar
Well I know what you are
Never said what you mean
Never made it clean
What you thought you’d seen
What you’d have us believe
Just a French counterfeit that was full of shit
Now we retrofit
Every single bit
To what already was
And we do it because
Everybody loves
All that stupid stuff
I read your quatrains and I got some complaints
You fabricate everything that you say
I think if your verse had been slightly less terse
Someone would’ve stopped that guy from shooting JFK
Just a horse’s ass in a stupid hat
Just a magic act
And hardly even that
You had two or three gems but the rest of them
Are post festum
And are vague even then
Any weatherman who goes to weather school
Can do what you do
Every night on the news
And if you really are what you say you are
I bet you foresaw
All the flaws in this song
Track Name: Strung Out
I do drugs every day but not the drugs that you think
And sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t work at all

Strung out
Filled with electricity
Strung out
But I haven’t taken anything
Strung out
One hundred per cent anxiety
Strung out
But I haven’t taken anything

If I’m perfectly still maybe I will be OK
One more pot of coffee and then I will be OK

Strung out
Filled with electricity
Strung out
But I haven’t taken anything
Strung out
One hundred per cent anxiety
Strung out
But I haven’t taken anything
Track Name: Places We've Slept
I want to go on a date with a girl who likes to paint
And she might call me Joe instead of Joseph
And I might call her Heather Day because that’s her name
Heather Day lives far away but that’s OK
‘Cause there are planes

Each of them has a name and each name
Is chosen by her with the same
Care and scrutiny as every mark she makes in the paint
And that’s great if you like that kind of thing which I do

Places we’ve slept and brushed our teeth
Counted our eggs before they hatched into the beds
Where we slept making lists on cocktail napkins
Of the places where we’ve slept
Drawing smiley faces next to all the eggs that were the best
Places we’ve slept

Let’s be honest listen up how we end up site specific
Thanks so much keeping up with you things we say
Birthday balloons things we hold rain in your hands
We were sleeping you’re a handful upkeep raw
Backtracking one and two
Track Name: Oliver Hitler
When he was born his mother said that he was ugly
In her defense the doctor and the nurse agreed
Born with a full set of pointed adult teeth
A sense of entitlement and two black eyes

Oliver Hitler never plays with his dolls anymore
Pizza crust all over the floor
Goes to his room and locks the door
Oliver Hitler least popular boy in the second grade
Talks to the wall of the plans he’s made
To steal money and blame it on the maid
Oliver Hitler setting fire to cars in the street
Puts sugar on everything that he eats
Always insists that he’s clever and sweet
Oliver Hitler tripping the girls when it’s recess time
And doing much worse to them in his mind
He doesn’t get nervous when he lies

When he was born his father said that he was sorry
For doing what he had done to his mother
And swore that he would never be a part of that
Again if this was what was going to happen

Oliver Hitler never plays with his dolls anymore
Chocolate cake all over the floor
Mouth is full of holes and sores
Oliver Hitler his brother’s bar mitzvah was far too fun
He didn’t deserve it now he wants one
His brother’s got friends but he’s got none
Oliver Hitler feeding beer to a dog
Hiding porn in a log
Throwing Black Cats at a frog
Oliver Hitler nobody likes that guy
His parents wish he would die
And now you know why
Track Name: Canadian Girls
Canadian girls with their beautiful teeth
And their radiant smiles
And their pink gum lines
Canadian girls flying on the ice
Every four years
See their teeth when they smile

Canadian girls with their two front teeth
Perfectly in place
Just as they should be
I’m no dentist but I noticed something
Canadian girls all have beautiful teeth

See them flying all around on the ice
And that guy that they’re with
No one cares about him
See them graceful every time with their teeth
Stealing the show
Out from under them

See Neve Campbell with her two front teeth
Out there in front
Looking pearly and fine
Neve doesn’t skate but she could if she tried
And I’d like her to try
And I like when she smiles

Canadian girls with their beautiful teeth
And their radiant smiles
And their pink gum lines
If I were a Beach Boy I would change my mind
From California girls
To the Canadian kind

Canadian girls hear them brushing their teeth
Oh that wonderful sound
When they rinse and spit
Canadian girls show me your teeth
Night after night
On or off the ice
Track Name: Super Imposition
Followed a girl home from work
I don’t think she can see me in my car
I mimic every move and use my blinker when she does
Along the busy LA streets to where she lives
Across the street I’ll park and wait for night to fall
And when she’s got her P.J.s on I’ll break inside
And do her in

In my finest cape
I know some don’t prefer to wear a cape
But I still do
Walk to her door I can’t believe the door’s unlocked
Where could she be I hope she doesn’t try to fight
I hate it when they try to fight
I think she’s in the shower now but she is getting out
I really have to feed

Don’t be scared or try to run
I’m only here to drink your blood
And if it’s not a super imposition live here when you’re dead
I really like your house I only want your blood
And all your stuff is that so much to ask a friend?
It’s not like you have any choice
I’m so terribly sorry love
Track Name: Ladies First
Do I still open your door?
Do I do that anymore?
Is it really that important?
Shouldn’t we be asking more?
It’s more than just lip service
Ladies first
Or at the same time
Maybe this time
Is that fine?
It can’t be worse
Hey are you a feminist?
I’m a human ain’t I, Miss?
And I’ve got a heart in my chest
So that makes me one I guess
It’s more than just lip service
Ladies first
Or at the same time
Maybe this time
Is that fine?
I can’t be worse
Hey no “hey baby” this time
I know that you’re a nice guy
But maybe give this a try
Redefine what you think’s nice
It’s more than just lip service
Ladies first
Or at the same time
Maybe this time
Is that fine?
It can’t be worse
Men can’t be friends with women?
I think that you don’t get it
They’re not being unfriendly
They only want for every
Girl to have all that is hers
Ladies first
Or at the same time
Maybe this time
Is that fine?
It can’t be worse