They Shoot Horses, Don
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They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Boo Hoo Hoo Boo

A decade ago, a seven piece group with three horn players would have had a 99.9% chance of being a ska band (with the other small percentage accounting for klezmer bands). They Shoot Horses Don't They is a group with the aforementioned configuration of players (along with bass, guitar, drums, and keyboards), and the group plays a ramshackle mixture of off-kilter rock (infused with horns) and carnival music with a punk rock attitude. Boo Hoo Hoo Boo is the full length debut from the group and follows on the heels of a self-released four song EP that came out in 2004.

The disc kicks off with a rumbling swagger on "Emptyhead" as a stomping beat and fuzzy synths collide with a marching bassline and blasts of horn. Male lead vocals are backed with emphatic shouts and the whole track progresses on a drunken highwire act that builds tension nicely. "Hiccup" follows at a much more brisk pace as more subdued horns blend with strummy guitars and vocals for the verses while the chorus is punctuated by an over-the-top "la la la" choir. It's raucous and a bit sloppy, but infectious as heck, and it's a winning style they continue with several other tracks on the album.

Wisely, the group doesn't go full bore all the time on Boo Hoo Hoo Boo, and the variety is welcome. The first half of "Three" sounds like a horn-layered saloon singalong before bursting into a marching-band close that takes it a step higher while "Seeds" is all murky keyboards, skronky horn bursts, shakers, and cowbell. It's not completely successful at all times, though, and at times the somewhat sloppy feel actually drags things down a bit, as on the super clunky and unfocused "Words."

In places, the lead vocals get to be a bit much (mostly when they're almost completely isolated on quieter tracks), but the multi-part vocals and vigor with which the instrumentation is played gives the whole album a rough charm that really captures a large group of people going into a room and having a blast while making a huge racket (it's no surprise the group is supposed to put on a great live show). With eleven tracks clocking in at just over forty minutes, the group never lingers with a single track too long, and even though there are a few soft spots, the full-on tumblers (like the rocking "Lowlife") more than make up for it. It probably won't change the world, but we've all gotta clap, scream and get down once in awhile.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2006-02-16 20:37:51