Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Hangmen – East of Western

The Hangmen are a Hollywood tradition, always on the cusp of “making it”, but never quite getting there, because life isn’t fair. Singer/songwriter Bryan Small has gone through innumerable line-up changes throughout his career and here he has long-time bassist Angelique Congleton (previously of the cool pop-punk conglomeration, Darlington), drummer Dino Guerrero and ex-Supersucker Ron Heathman. Somehow, even with all of the personnel changes over the years, Bryan has a set Hangmen sound, which may have variations, but never really fluctuates. You know what you’re gonna get – solid songwriting, r’n’r guitars, a rockin’ rhythm section and some cow-punk influences.

This is the sound of the LA rock’n’roll scene – bits taken here & there and all
filtered through Small’s guitar and pen. The cow-punk sounds are obvious (there’s even pedal steel on one song – “Betrayed”) but there’s blues (Heathman tosses in plenty of tasty slide licks), folk and just plain rock’n’roll. They even take on the Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked” and make that their own – hard to do with a song that iconic.

Anything but one-dimensional, the tempos, rhythms and feels change within the record and ballads (“Had a Girl”) mix with mid-tempo numbers (“I’m Your Man” – almost sounding like a slower Ramones cut) and flat out rockers (“Homesick Blues” – a high-energy riff-rocker in the Hangmen tradition). The emotional intensity remains the same, though – Bryan always sounds like he is invested in his songs, from his old tales of addiction to his modern, moody love songs. He seems to have a habit of closing with a slow, smoldering tune and does so again here (“Haunted”), which makes the punch of the opener even more potent when the CD is left on rotation!

Some things never go out of fashion – like pure rock’n’roll that bands like the Hangmen play. They’re still pretty damn smokin’ live, as well!