Make the Cowboy Robots Cry EP
s it bad journalistic form to admit that perhaps, maybe, just a little, I am drunk as I write this? In all fairness, shouldn’t I really be stoned to the gills when I put on a Beachwood Sparks CD? Honestly, when someone says “Beachwood Sparks”, my brain, in true Pavlovian fashion, pictures a handful of lanky guys in flares lying on a sunny hill in Los Angeles, frying their brains on acid, drinking beer, and talking about who-the-fuck-knows-what. Regardless, the beer swimming in my tummy is a fine conductor for the hazy, lazy songs on Make the Cowboy Robots Cry. If anything, the 12 FL. OZ. that I am currently working on, makes me more qualified to tell you about the tunes on the pretty spinning disc.
“Drinkswater” stumbles in the front door with a bottle in its hand, and then lays down on the couch, admiring the view out the window. It’s lilting guitar melody and foot dragging BPM stare outside for a bit before getting up off the couch and crashing to the floor. Cymbals everywhere. Organs hanging out, for all the world to see. Chris Gunst whines like he just woke up, almost a whisper, cracking every time he gets up into the falsetto area.
The sleepy, sun-drunk mood pretty much dominates this EP. No drums, plenty of ambient sound effects, and what sounds like a far off orchestra playing, create a sort of cinematic atmosphere on “Hibernation”. A stark little number that puts one in the mood for exactly that, a nice, long nap. “Ponce de Leon Blues” continues in the nap mode with another foot dragging track. It’s got a gorgeous melody, Mia Doi Todd adds some understated backing vocals, and the band throws some bells in. They even turn the amps up and indulge in a little fuzzy guitar noodling near the end, but the song still plods along the nap time path.
I keep waiting for something great to happen. Don’t get me wrong, these songs are beautiful. They’re well recorded. They’re hummable and pleasant. But that’s a bit of the problem. I feel like some of these songs are really ready to shake off the sleep, grab a cup of coffee and start flying. They feel weighed down in parts, and the whole EP almost gives me the impression, sometimes, that Beachwood Sparks intentionally held themselves back. Songs like “Sing Your Thoughts” and the most upbeat cut, “Ghost Dance 1492” start building on themselves and working up a little steam, only to be cut short or whipped back into a more comatose state.
Here is the “However.” This album sounded great sitting on my back porch, a beer in my hand, feeling the breeze blow, and thinking about who-the-fuck-knows-what. In a way, all my critical analysis of this piece of music doesn’t mean a thing in that context. It’s not bad in any way. It sets a mood, and it’s good music. Plain and simple. Best to just pop open another beer and stop thinking about it so much.
And now here’s my drunken, niggling complaint; what the hell is with the title guys? Come on now. It’s terrible. “Robot Cowboys”? Really. Leave the rural robot shtick to Grandaddy. Quite frankly, they do it better. Nice cover though.
Reviewed by: Colleen Delaney
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01