PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Horse the Band: The Mechanical Hand

Jason MacNeil

Horse the Band are interesting and high energy, but too often they come off as the poster boys of studio Attention Deficit Disorder.

Horse the Band

The Mechanical Hand

Label: Koch
US Release Date: 2005-09-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Horse the Band is described in their press kit as "five stellar gods running from a haunted past they can't possibly forget." And it's for that reason alone why I am asking for a moratorium on press kits for the foreseeable future. What something like this tells anyone about anything is still unknown to me. It makes comments or descriptions such as "think Wilco and R.E.M. wrestling in the basement while Jerry Reed and Grandpa Jones play rock paper scissors in the moonlight" seem sensible.

What I am told that actually makes sense is that Horse the Band is from Los Angeles and they've made inroads in various music magazines, some of whom are fans. They also state they can mix spastic, rampant rock songs that are gems. But listening to "Birdo", it sounds as if they've tried to listen to too much Alexisonfire and then just do less screaming. Part screamo, part emo and part nu metal, the song doesn't really appease the listener. And then on top of all that is a cheesy synthesizer that tries to make you forget about what is going on. Messy, disconnected, and basically throwing everything against a sonic wall to see what sticks, "Birdo" is a huge no-no.

After that, one then has to endure another synthesizer that brings to mind Mannheim Steamroller on acid. The song is entitled "A Million Exploding Suns", with Horse the Band getting into a thick and dense series of meaty guitar riffs before boring headlong into a rampant punk rock format. Again, there is not a lot to get all psyched up over, just more run-of-the-mill, quasi-radio friendly rock/emo/metal fodder.

Three songs in and still trying to find their footing, they then opt for something Orgy or Nine Inch Nails might use as a b-side or studio outtake. "Nobody likes me at all" the lead singer shrieks with a sense of almost mock isolation and despair as the arrangement morphs into another punk rock blueprint much like Bad Religion or Pennywise have done before. It's a bit more interesting, but generally "Manateen" is the best of the bunch thus far. But that isn't saying much.

"The House Of Boo" sounds as if it's the same song as "Manateen", with a change of gears throughout that allows the lead singer to talk about creepy things crawling and going into a void. By this time, Horse the Band have tried to create some sense of drama in their songs, but it's, well, almost humorously bad how they go about trying to portray that drama. The only saving grace is the middle portion where they roll the dice with a Metallica-ish rat-a-tat-tat guitar lick that is fleetingly interesting. Then they go into a bouncy, ska-pop arrangement that, alas, falls on its face.

There are a few moments where Horse the Band aren't utter horse dooty, especially on the galloping garage rocker "Heroes Die" - this song has some fine guitar and only a smattering of synthesizer fuelling it. The ensuing tune dies from the outset, a promising but disappointing track called "Softer Sounds". Perhaps the softer sound they should have gone for was utter silence. They do manage to squeeze enough out of "Octopus On Fire" to keep you mildly entertained and interested, especially the spot-on guitar riffs and hi-octane but airtight rhythm section.

Too often, though, Horse the Band have made songs that are a bit interesting but seem to be so unfocused at times that you get the sense the songs were composed too quickly and rather rashly. "A Rusty Glove" has about four or five ideas and songs going on at once. If you're into that, then this song, at least, is your cup of tea. If you're not, then this album by Horse the Band has that odor of horsebleep. "The Black Hole" concludes with the two Muppet characters Statler and Waldorf talking about their reactions, which run the gamut. It could not end any odder but somehow truer.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.