“Meanwhile on Main Street”‘s name gives the essence of unfamiliarity and of possibility. Main Street could be anywhere, and anything could be happening. Such is the nature of the second track released from United Nations‘ forthcoming album The Next Four Years. Geoff Rickly has always been a vocalist that stretches his abilities, and here we see him at the peak of unpredictability. He is less of a lead man than a conductor. As the song goes, he reacts to it — he is spontaneously reading the chaotic ebbs and flows of his backing musicians. “Main Street” touches a number of thematic and aural realms, and its companion is Rickly’s vocal track. The arrangement is altogether consistent with the dedication to dynamics that United Nations, Pianos Become the Teeth, Thursday and others have displayed.
The superb instrumentals are reminiscent of Pelican, Russian Circles, and other bands of a separate realm but with a similar attitude. The intricate individual performances don’t necessarily define the song on first listen, but they stand out to any who listen up. Tonally, the introduction is a step above, given the rhythmic, eerie tone that it bestows on the following minutes. The percussion and guitar parts wait until there is space for them to collide against each other before taking center stage and exploding into angular chaos. They tension that they create as they progress is the linchpin to the song’s success.
To see Rickly as the “frontman” of United Nations is inaccurate, and “Meanwhile On Main Street” is a perfect illustration of this fact. He is clearly essential to the track, but he is not the central focus. He lends a narrative to the ghost-like introduction, but dissolves into the wild aggression of the chorus. His repeated phrases almost rob him of agency, making him seem machine or instrument-like in repetition. As he chants “And the price is fixed” then “The fix is in” he becomes a set of chords, or a beat — a necessary part of the track, but only one part of the collective whole.
On “Main Street” different themes and tones collide, but as each take the spotlight they highlight a different aspect of the track. It’s a broadly painted landscape rather than a focused close-up. Each element contributes to a living sonic existence rather than a calculated performance.