Whatever In The Landscape
Liam Lynch’s “United States of Whatever” is, in a sense, a novelty garage rock song. In another sense, “United States of Whatever” is the entire history of novelty garage rock songs, condensed into less than two minutes. Over a distorted, barely interpolated Surfaris guitar riff and a clattering beat that sounds as if it were recorded on, played on, and performed by a sheet of aluminum foil, Lynch yelps about a series of failed social interactions, punctuated by a chorus of the song’s title being belched out. It's like a grade schooler describing the Sam Kinison version of “Wild Thing” to his single mom—an anti-heroic claim to nihilistic autonomy.

In the fall months of 2002, American popular music was in its second year of a misremembering-of-history hysteria. The United States at the time was both doe-eyed victim and righteous vigilante. George Bush Jr. saw himself as Gotham’s avenging angel, with the Twin Towers as Batman’s parents—Thomas and Martha Wayne laid low in the Crime Alley of Manifest Destiny’s historical currents—and as proxies for George’s own pearl clutching pappi, George Bush Sr., humiliated a decade previous by Saddam Hussein, a.k.a., the Joe Chill of Mesopotamia.

The superhero analogy quickly falls apart. There’s nothing comic books love more than a good origin story and America, in 2002, had no interest in causation.

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Whatever Changes
Like so much of what occurred in the first few years of the new millennium (Y2K hysteria, 9/11, the Strokes, etc.), “United States of Whatever” was a 21st century event that’s roots grew out of the century that came before it. In this case, those roots were a short lived television show, called The Sifl and Olly Show, which aired on the Music Television cable network for two seasons in 1998 (a third season was filmed but not aired on MTV). The Sifl and Olly Show was a comedy show where the characters were performed by actors’ hands, using comedically-tailored socks as costumes. In the sketch that introduced “United States of Whatever,” the character of Sifl (voiced by show co-creator Matt Crocco) bemoans his friend Olly (voiced by Lynch) over using the term “whatever,” saying “it’s cliche crap…I can’t believe you…you may think it looks cool but it’s really dumb” to which Olly’s response is: “I got the ‘tude now. So just whatever. I don’t care. I’m just letting it happen. I’m freewheeling…” And then, before an American flag backdrop, as the black sock of Sifl looks on in bemused dismay, the white sock of Olly sings his new personal anthem.

Though “United States of Whatever” the sketch aired in 1997, it wasn’t until five years later, after CDRs of the song were illicitly shared like a Napster-god-breathing-spirit into the clay of CD technology, that it would be officially released. It immediately became a massive hit, partially making its mark on history by being the shortest song to (at that time) reach the top of the U.K. pop charts.

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