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
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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.


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