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The Gothic Rangers
Omen
Ditch Bank Records
www.gothicrangers.com


This last visit to the home office had me picking CDs out of a big pile, and I did most of my picking based on cover art. It's not a very good way to go about it, but it certainly yields interesting results to see what sort of things one finds when judging a book entirely by its cover. The cover art for Omen is pretty freaking awesome. It's just the two band members sitting in the woods with their hollow-body electrics. The wooden tops of the guitars jump out at you as the rest of the image has been highly de-saturated and wrung through a sepia-toned filter. There's another filter that a friend of mine likes to use but that I don't know the name of that basically mimics the old trick of hazing your lens with Vaseline. The picture is a testament to some of the best Photoshop filters currently available. (The um, raven, looks a little fake or at least dead, though) I was looking it over when editor-man said that I'd be disappointed. It looks like it'll be great, but really it sucks. But, I took it anyway. Hell, I took a copy of The Pussycat Dolls that day; (under much protest from my girlfriend) anything was fair game as far as I was concerned!

I'm still not sure what record he listened to. Omen far exceeded my expectations, even the ones based on the album cover. The production is pretty lo-fi, and Tim Buck's vocals could've certainly been mastered a lot better so that he doesn't sound like he's singing from inside an oil drum. That aside, this is some mighty fine and refined country music that continues to jam Johnny Cash's middle finger up the collective ass of that unholy abortion known as "modern pop country." It ain't much, but from what I've heard now from the previously unknown Gothic Rangers, they appear to be heralding a new age of gothic-folk-country. Whatever that is. This album is different from other gothic country albums in that it feels less like gothic gone country, and more like country gone gothic. No one in Slim Cessna's Auto Club looks like they ever had a nickname like "Bubba", but Tim Buck and Robin Willhite both look decidedly more proletariat than Jay Munly or Adam Glasseye. And that should appeal to those who also agree that pop country smokes a lot of asshole, but don't want any of their hunting buddies to think that they consort with a bunch of sissy European cheese-eaters like Reverend Glasseye.

Omen has a bit of the renegade country spirit, channels some restless ghosts of an Arkansas still haunted by the War of Northern Aggression (that's the Civil War for the Yanks out there.), and manages to be sorrowful and wistful without becoming a weepy country-cliché parody of itself. Guitars are crisp, rhythms driving, and enough distortion and reverb is applied to provide just the right measure of rock to hone the album's edge.

-JD

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Mike Doughty



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