Backyard Tire Fire

Vagabonds and Hooligans

by Evan Sawdey

5 April 2007

 

Backyard Tire Fire is one of those bands that you just hate.  Not because they’re terrible, but because they’re a band so unique, distinct, amazing and talented that you get frustrated about them getting ignored by the mainstream again and again.  Adding fuel to the fire is Vagabonds and Hooligans, another alt-country/bare-bones-rock affair that is proudly recorded analog-only.  Critics peg the band anywhere between the Violent Femmes to Uncle Tupelo, but here the band sounds like prime-era Ryan Adams: not indulgent or pretentious, but making music specifically for the back porches of America’s heartland.  “Downtime” may have been written solely to make Lynyrd Skynyrd proud, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The fact that they can go from that to the aching, wounded pop of “The Wrong Hand” at the switch of a hat makes the album all the more impressive, with Ed Anderson’s lyrics ranging from blindingly poetic to simple yet heartfelt (particularly on the beautifully lazy closer “It’s a Good Night”).  Yet, on the obvious radio-snagging track “Tom Petty”, Anderson pulls off a remarkable feat: when he sings about simply wanting to be a star, he does so without a trace of pomposity—and in that moment, you want to do everything you can to help him achieve it.

Vagabonds and Hooligans

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