Since its inception in the artier-than-thou Chicago underground, U.S. Maple has had audiences and critics alike scratching their heads. The confusion begins with the band's mission statement, which, according to lead singer Al Johnson, is "to erase rock and roll entirely from our collective minds." How do they start? First, toss out the stifling conventions of tempo, rhythm, and melody; turn everything up real loud; and speed and sputter though jarringly noisy outbursts. A seizure of distorted guitar dovetails with chaotic jumbles of percussion and Johnson's vocal screech. A flurry of noodling collides with a whirlwind of electronic pulses. Sound like a headache? You can bet on it.
But for Maple fans, the nervy energy offers quite a rush, and taking in the band's live set is well worth the ticket, if you can bear the tension. And you'd better be able to, since noisy tension is U.S. Maple's strong suit, and its performances are usually a fascinating (if at times frustrating) trip, sans destination. The only sonic reference point that people can come up with is an update of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, but it's probably better to think of it as rock and roll's Godot.