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Rock Plaza Central
Are We Not Horses
Yep Roc Records

As far as concept albums go, this one is definitely out there. Ostensibly, the premise of Are We Not Horses revolves around a herd of robotic horses, their loves, their lives, their trials and tribulations. "What?" you say? Yeah. My thoughts, too. I received no press packet with this album, so my only source of speculation regarding its thematic slant was another review. Now, if this is the actual premise of the album, I'd like to think it weren't a literal one. The idea is rather silly and preposterous, and deeper allegories abound within.

The closest match I've found to true life would be the plight of the slave-descended black American. I think that the best case can be made for this from the title track in which the narrator states: "They say that we're not horses, but they're not friends. And if we're not horses, what are we then?" This reflects the commonly-held, 19th century belief that the black slaves were sub-human creatures, which made it easier to deny them the rights afforded other men. However, by applying these inhumanities to the clumsy archetype of a steel horse, it serves as a placeholder for the plights of many oppressed people.

Musically, this album is without fault; a mixture of protest folk-rock and Canadian folk and a little honky-tonk, all ably written and executed. The lyrics and vocals simultaneously work for and against, though. Lyrics are equally inspired and painfully hokey, oft times rambling incoherently, but sometimes embarrassingly bad. Chris Eaton's vocals can be endearing in their off-key earnestness, or a wincing reminder of his amateurishness. A weak singer who writes brilliant lyrics can be forgiven for his untrained voice, ala Bob Dylan, but when coupled with laughable lines like "…fifteen hands, that's four more than eleven, eight more than seven." It makes it harder to take the concept seriously. That aside, if the listener is willing to cast aside any concerns for plausibility of concept, and forgive occasional transgressions of lyrical content, then this album can be a pleasurable listen from start to finish.


Track Listing:
1. I Am An Excellent Steel Horse
2. How Shall I To Heaven Aspire?
3. My Children, Be Joyful
4. Anthem For The Already Defeated
5. Fifteen Hands
6. Are We Not Horses?
7. When We Go, How We Go (Part I)
8. Our Pasts, Like Lighthouses
9. 08/14/03
10. Our Hearts Will Not Rust
11. When We Go, How We Go (Part II)
12. We've Got A Lot To Be Glad For

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