Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo - On the Desolate Hillside
Adam Stafford-affiliated posse combine country-folk and dour Scottish deadpannery with mixed results
(Wise Blood Industries)
Being an album’s title track is no easy task. Your spotlit status infers that you should really be one of the strongest tracks on the record; it’s also in your unwritten job description to encapsulate the tone and message of the album as a whole. ‘On the Desolate Hillside’ is by no means the best track on this new project featuring Adam Stafford (formerly of Y’All is Fantasy Island, and head of the Wise Blood label on which this is released), but the song’s variable quality means it ably assumes the role of being the LP in microcosm. The track – like the album – is made up of two halves: half cowboyish lamentation, half dour Scottish deadpannery. It’s the former that really shines elsewhere on the record: ‘Fashionable Buddhas’, ‘Anomie Encumbrance’ and ‘Break These Chains’ all have fun toying with country-folk conventions, flinging lonesome whistles, desert-dry percussion and ‘hoo hah!’ backing vocals against mentions of ‘biochemical machines’ and middle class revolt. There’s even a few glimpses of a wry sense of humour: lead singer D King’s terse ‘ah fuck’ when he messes up the intro to ‘The Solitary Rabbit’ is kept on record, and the aforementioned ‘Break These Chains’ admits, ‘my inability to retain information would make me a shite stalker’.
Sadly, Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo are less successful when they get off the horse. ‘Hell is Awaiting’ is a psychedelic mishmash of bongos, wheedling organ lines and Nick Cave-lite barking, none of which really gel (coupled with a disappointingly schoolboyish innuendo involving a turkey baster). ‘Mappin’ is an incongruous venture into Kraftwerkian electronica and sludgy, slacker guitar chords, with King’s conscious inability to hit the low notes slipping from comical to tedious. ‘Sorry to ruin all your plans / Your aspirations for being a great man / But you should stick to writing good old country songs’ sings King on that title track. Brother, you ain’t wrong.
S of the PR play with Adam Stafford at The 13th Note Cafe / Bar, Glasgow, Sat 24 Aug.