Kevin Hulett

A few lucky people caught U.S.E's fuse-blowing, body-rocking, don't-call-it-a-comeback sold-out show this past spring at the Comet ["Since U Been Gone," Megan Seling, May 10], but, sadly, I wasn't one of them. Thrilling as that show must've been, U.S.E have been relatively quiet since, keeping busy with other projects (such as singer/guitarist Jason Holstrom's surprisingly rich, island-inspired pop group Thieves of Kailua) and finally releasing their debut album, long out in the U.S. and Japan, in the U.K. and Australia this November. For Seattle, though, or at least for those of us who didn't make it into the Comet back in May, last Wednesday's Dewar's-sponsored "Repeal Day" party at Neumo's and the Friday, December 14, all-ages show at the Vera Project mark the real return of U.S.E, complete with plans for a new album.

But first, that show at Neumo's: Repeal Day may be a fake Hallmark holiday, but I could deal with more invented holidays if they were about drinking and partying rather than chocolate and gift buying. The liquor company outfitted the crowd with felt fedoras and feather boas (for that end-of-prohibition atmosphere); the band hung their crafty, cut-out, light-up letters behind the stage; the room was packed with loud, drunk revelers. Everything was primed for a peak U.S.E performance.

U.S.E can definitely light up cramped venues such as the Comet or a house-party basement, but their ebullient Daft-Punk-meets-the-B-52s-meets-J-pop routine, not to mention the sheer size of their band—two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, keyboards, backup dancers, singers, various friends—is outsized enough to fill up much larger stages, and Neumo's gave them the space to really get into it. They played their hits ("Emerald City," "It Is On"), but more exciting was a handful of new songs debuted by the band: "Get That Feeling," "Look at the City," "Gimmie Mo'," "K-I-S-S-I-N-G," "Dance with Me," and "Beat of My Heart." The band also dug up one cover and dropped an interpolation of Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" into U.S.E standard "There's Always Music." The new numbers were, of course, ridiculously cheery and upbeat, but they occasionally toned down the Euro-disco gloss in favor of sweatier, looser funk. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G" was the most immediately anthemic of the new songs, with its chorus of "Nothing's gonna break your heart," but none of the new material let the party down for a second.

All this new material means a new album is finally in the works, according to drummer/vocalist Jon E. Rock.

"The new album's working title is either World Record or United State of Everything," Rock says by e-mail. "It has the new songs on it, and we're hoping to release it in the spring of '08. We've been recording it at Jason's (our guitar player's) cabin in Oregon, in his studio in his basement called 'The Cabana,' and at Orbit Studio. We're lining up more time in January/February at various studios with as of yet to be decided engineers (we tend to have Jason do our production while we breathe down his neck). Once it's done we have plans to return to Japan as well as every other square inch of the world who wants to dance."

For the show this Friday at the Vera Project, U.S.E play with Seattle bit-crushers Truckasauras and Portland's Strength. It's all-ages, which means no free scotch, but you'll hardly miss it with U.S.E and friends onstage.

* * *

If U.S.E are dedicated to partying, then Chicago MC (and moped enthusiast) Hollywood Holt is fanatical about it. Holt and DJ/producer Mano were scheduled to play Sing Sing this past Friday, but on Wednesday night in Vancouver, BC, Holt fell through a window and severed an artery in his right arm.

"He was rushed to the hospital, where they almost had to amputate his arm," says Sing Sing's Clayton Vomero. "He underwent surgery, was released on Friday, took the train to Seattle, and insisted on playing."

Holt and Mano rocked a less-crowded-than-usual Sing Sing, Mano busy on the turntables, and Holt rapping at breakneck pace and leading some call-and-response (Seattle was, typically, a little weak in the response department, though the dancing was enthusiastic). If he hadn't stopped the party to tell the crowd about his accident, nobody would probably have guessed that the man had just nearly lost a limb. recommended

egrandy@thestranger.com