Coyote: Outsides

Concocted of meandering instrumentation and intertwining melodies, Outsides is an unprecedentedly successful musical enigma.



Label: Hot Dog City
US Release Date: 2007-11-20
UK Release Date: 2007-11-19

From the offset it's apparent that Coyote aren't your average band. Opening with sparse guitar, jazzy bass and meandering keys that give way to Ryan Hamiliton's incomprehensible murmurs and an organ whose sound lies halfway between church and haunted house, Outsides doesn't get any more conventional as it goes on. Hell, even the sleeve is strange, with the album title twisted and twirled almost beyond recognition before a background of eerily distorted landscape.

What first hits you about Coyote is that organ, or at least that keyboard, coaxed into acting out the Church's musical courier of choice. Whether skulking in the background or pushing to the fore, it is inescapable due to its sheer unorthodoxy, coating more conventional guitar riffs with an otherworldly sheen, the first encounters with "Quietly" bringing to mind retro dungeon-scampering videogame Castlevania more than practice rooms and smoky bars. A few listens later, however, and what was hitherto a conspicuous discolouration of Coyote's sound becomes simply another part of the melodic patchwork that makes up Outsides, in the same way that Tyondai Braxton's yelped glossolallia has become an integral part of Battles' sound rather than trill obtrusion.

Outsides an addictive album even before you adjust to its peculiarities, however. This effect might be borne partially of intrigue, perhaps, but on the whole it is Coyote's sonic qualities that keep you coming back; the clashing maelstrom of sounds that scarcely veils a melodic heart. You have "White Fox"'s intricate keys, for instance, intertwining with a thinly distorted guitar that ranges from sparing twangs to cathartic riffing, or the more composed stomp of "Tea Kettle", whose keys and guitar march in line to Jeff Mooridian's authoritarian drum beat. "Old School Gratitude", meanwhile, is a brooding scuzz-rocker, harking back to Bleach-era Nirvana fed through a drinking session with the Black Keys, which, as if to exemplify Coyote's strength in diversity, follows on from "Headlights", the most melodically sweet moment on the record, hurling harmonies to-and-fro between the guitar and keys.

And then there are the vocals. At times loitering deep in the mix, letting the music do the talking, at others leaping to the fore with unprecedented zeal, Hamilton's chants, wails and sighs are a persistent draw. While "White Fox" begins as a cryptic hymnal, Hamilton's mumbles indecipherable below the soaring organ, "Tea Kettle" sees this develop into a pronounced chant, before becoming a visceral sermon, spat out on "Old School Gratitude". If there is an air of psychosis pervading over his drawl, it is one that is accompanied at all times with pitch-perfection, as "Gala of Spades" demonstrates, with Hamilton coming across as Thom Yorke starring in a sinister pantomime.

Indeed, there is an unhinged darkness about Outsides that extends far further than its enigmatic sleeve. It's as if someone had taken My Morning Jacket, plonked them in the middle of dark, densely forested landscape and told them to fend for themselves. It is this landscape -- these Outsides-- and the resultant mania that would ensue, that this album soundtracks, distorting conventional song structures and instrumentation beyond recognition. The production here is appropriately murky and, though one or two of the album's ten tracks could do with a little sharpening up -- the latter half of the album perhaps does not make as big an impression as the first -- generally it suits Coyote's nature.

Sadly, Coyote become a three-piece earlier this year when bassist Trevor Butler was tragically killed in a road accident. If Outsides, completed shortly before his death, is to stand as his legacy, then it is one to be proud of; a bold, adventurous and often surreal exploration of musical waters hitherto remained mostly untouched. Time will tell if Coyote continue in Butler's absence, but in the meantime we are inclined to hope that they do, for the song-writing and invention shown in their debut full-length makes for a genuinely rewarding listen.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.