How I Learned To Stop Ripping On Their Promo Photo And Love Banditos!

I'm just gonna come right out and say it: Bloodshot Records better be right about Banditos.

They obviously believe enough in the band to SIGN THEM TO THEIR LABEL, but, hey, even my beloved IRS Records signed the occasional clunker back in the day (Dada, anyone?). I'm not a music snob, nor do I play one on TV. Due to numerous bullshit "adult responsibilities" that keep me from listening to music every waking moment of every day, my time is limited and, therefore, VALUABLE. As a result, I find myself being proactive in weeding out those bands that don't pass the smell test.

"The smell test", you ask?

Oh come on, you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, Third Eye Blind would be huge. We all have an inner criteria regarding new music and bands. We each know what we like, but, more accurately, what we DON'T LIKE. Based on that criteria, we hone our list of potential deal-breakers down to one blood-thirsty scimitar and then we lop off some heads. With but a "pfft" and a wave of our hand, we can relegate the new Mumford & Sons album to the reject bins months ahead of its release based solely on the rumored presence of amplified guitar and, GASP, synths.

So, taking a look at the promo photo for Banditos, I've got to say that AT LEAST three red flags are flapping wildly:

1. An Alan Jackson tour shirt? Really?

How am I supposed to know whether the musician in question means this literally or is being playfully ironic, as the facial hair and sly grin would imply? Plus, if we need any further proof that country has become the new mall punk, it's the sight of musicians wearing shirts of artists soooo much cooler than them.

Back when I was living in L.A., there was this free mag called Mean Street. It covered mostly the SoCal punk/metal scene and EVERY band's photo was comprised of four or five dudes all wearing some other band's t-shirt. There was always at least one Clash or Ramones t-shirt in every picture and, after...oh, I dunno, five years of this...I kinda got sick of it. I mean, did you ever see Cheap Trick or Kiss wearing some other band's t-shirt?

Fuck no.

It was only a matter of time before the generation of kids RAISED on that mentality went out into the world, invading whatever genre of music would allow you to show off your Hot Topic attire to maximum effect.

2. Wool cap, check, cowboy hats only Festus from "Gunsmoke" could have loved, check.

Can we just forego the hats thing altogether for a little while? Please?

3. Great, more hipster beards.

Maybe I'd be impressed if the woman in the band had a beard. Which raises the question, are their any musically talented circus freaks? I mean, Miley's pink armpit hair is fine, but give me a bearded lady who plays a mean lap steel and I will GIVE you my ATM code. These guys, on the other hand...two of these guys look like the assistant manager of some hole-in-the-wall bookstore you walk past a thousand times and can never figure out if they're still in business or not. The other two look like the least trustworthy members of Jesse James' gang...real banditos.

Dammit. Plain and simple, that's symmetry and if there is one thing I can appreciate, it's symmetry.

So I listen...

Having spent the past couple days with the band's self-titled album, which is streaming like crazy over at the AV Club, I've got to say that I dig what this band is doing. Perhaps more than any other band occupying this same territory, this is a band that respects the tradition of country, understands the roots, but also likes it loud. Sure, others have gone down this road; Jason & The Scorchers, drivin n cryin, Steve Earle, et al, but this is the first band to get the mixture right, to my ears anyway.

Any album that opens with a "Breeze" as loud, proud and sweaty as this one is aces in my book.

"Still Sober (After All These Beers)" does the unthinkable by living up to the promise of it's title. In the hands of a Jason Aldean, a song like this would be Idiocracy on Brawndo.

Last but not least, I ask you, no, I BEG you to listen to "Old Ways". All the way through.

Just do it. Those too stubborn to take my suggestion are gonna miss out on Mary Beth Richardson singing the absolute shit out of this tune. Anybody who thinks Alabama Shakes have the soulful female crooner market cornered have not heard Richardson's warm, seductive pipes work their magic on a song.

It's funny, though, once you hear her sing, you're kinda grumpy that the other guys in the band don't let her sing every song. she's impressive enough that this could become a very real problem for them.

The only other problem I see for Banditos will be making a second album half as good as their masterful debut.  If they do, and I have every reason to believe that they will, country might just come to mean something again.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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