[15 September 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Rose’s Pawn Shop mix an Appalachian bluegrass sound with straight rock elements and punk energy on Dancing in the Gallows. It’s made for a compelling mixture before, but on their new record, you can feel the distance between their hometown Los Angeles and the Appalachians they try to channel. Despite the lively fiddle playing on the record—a true highlight—Rose’s Pawn Shop seem like they’re dipping their toe in too many rivers without ever learning to swim. The dust of bluegrass gets blown away by the basic rock structures, and the punk energy they work up never really works itself past a mid-tempo chug. On top of that, when they sing about drinking, the weary road, and grinning in the face of death it feels pulled out of some Americana fakebook. The band sounds like it’s at a safe distance from the wreckage they champion on “Danger Behind the Wheel”, and there’s no worry or genuine wear when they sing of resignation on “Pine Box”. Beginning to end, Dancing in the Gallows owes a little bit to a thousand influences from other, sturdier homes, but it never quite finds its own.