While it’s certainly true that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or an album by its sleeve) the package that housed the CD edition of One Horse Band’s latest release immediately spiked my interest. In a faux newspaper sleeve that reminds me of PiL’s debut single ‘Public Image’, Useless Propaganda is a tactile thing that recalls a golden, bygone era (it’s also available on lovely blue vinyl, too). Therefore, the music inside has a lot to live up to, and I’m pleased to report that One Horse Band has stepped up to the plate to deliver a 10-track rocker that seethes with a high-minded rage.
If there was a word to sum up One Horse Band then it would surely be “surreal”, and no more so than on opening cut ‘Santa Claus’. It begins in an understated fashion (which is always a brave way to begin a record) and sounds like The Pogues (if they’d been imbibing LSD) but it soon evolves into a beauteous beast with soaring guitars that shine and shimmer. Nevertheless, it’s a catchy little number that’ll trap you in a web with an insidious melody and lyrics so sharp they’ll cut your fingers. I’m all for bands who invest a lot of thought into their lyrics; it adds an important dynamic, and those found on Useless Propaganda are just cryptic enough (and enticingly so) to draw the listener in and unpick their meaning, and these discordant words fit the bands angular, chiming sound perfectly.
Muscular and punchy, ‘Killing Floor’ throws its weight around like a heavyweight boxer, and the drums ensure that every beat is a well-aimed punch to the temple. If you could imagine The Residents jamming with Accept on a blues tune, then this would be the result. While this album does lend itself to close scrutiny, sometimes it’s best not to over-analyse music and concede that ‘Killing Floor’ is just a great, great, great song. You have no choice but to bask in the glory of ‘Supersonic’ and let the waves of distorted guitar ruffle your hair like the slipstream of a jumbo jet.
One Horse Band (self-described “loudest one-man band on the planet”) is a tight unit. There’s no excess fat here: everything is wrapped up tight as a drum and honed into a red-hot laser beam, and subsequently, Useless Propaganda becomes far more direct. As an artist, One Horse Band tends to fade into the background, egos are kept in check and that has the benefit of bringing the music to the fore, and when the groove is as good as the one found on the title track, that’s exactly where it should be. With each song inhabiting its own space, Useless Propaganda is a multifaceted listen, and one that keeps revealing new delights on each successive spin. Flowing like an old school album, ‘A Little More’ brings the album to a thoughtful conclusion and leaves a gaping canyon in its wake.
This album is my first taste of One Horse Band, but it certainly won’t be my last.
- Santa Claus
- Killing Floor
- It’s A Gimmick
- Useless Propaganda
- Hello Charlie
- Ice Cream
- I Sing
- Like You Do
- A Little More