I want you to show me the way...
O'Death is a terrible name for a band - just plain awful. It's almost as bad as the name of Rory Gallagher's old tub-thumper Rod de'Ath but not quite. Anyway, here's hoping the content is better than the packaging...
Formed in New York in 2003, 'Head Home' is O'Death's follow-up to their self-released 2004 debut album. With influences including The Pogues, The Pixies, Prince, Neil Young and The Misfits, you can bet ya bottom dollar that it's gonna be a bumpy ride. I guess I just didn't expect it to be so juddering that my eyes would trade places with my nuts and eight of my toenails would fall out - but you live and learn.
Opener 'Down To Rest' is a perfect illustration of what O'Death are all about: banjos, fiddles, angst and fury. If this fills some or more probably many of you with a palpable feeling of foreboding and a definite sense of resolute despondency (this is a RAWK website after all), hold your goddamn horses for just one cotton pickin' minute - I ain't done. O'Death ain't no Deadstring Brothers or Dolly Parton rip-off merchants: they sound like Leonard Cohen would if he'd been born in Nashville.
'Adelita' is a pungent melange of delicately picked acoustic guitars, lumbering mid-sections and full-on melodic country chaos. Greg Jamie's laconic quasi-Cogan vocals soon give way to a vitriolic nasal ruckus so extreme one can only imagine someone not only pissed in his cornflakes that morning but they also wiped their arse with his toast.
The low-key 'O Lee O' marks the emergence of O'Death's sensitive side. The muffled drums, acoustic guitar and banjo swell into a beautifully maudlin yet belligerently stringent diatribe, (it's punk Jim...but not as we know it) while 'Travellin Man' and 'Face Mask' are both simple and wholly successful pessimistic ballads that prove to be a welcome resting point from the preceding pandemonium.
'Jesus Look Down' is as close to The Pixies as you're gonna get - well, from a C&W band anyhow - and they've thrown in a couple of lyrical gems for good measure: "Jesus look down on me/Tell me my thoughts" immediately springs to mind. Refreshingly, the following track 'Nathaniel' is a fantastically moody omnivorous dinosaur of a tune that soon transmogrifies into a Tyrannosaurus Rex that's suffering from a really bad hangover and has run out of Alka Seltzer.
Low points include the insipid religious harangue 'Busted Old Church' and 'Only Daughter' which both fail in their attempts to create a meaningful substance through the juxtaposition of musical gaiety and lyrical dystopia - but you can't have it all. 'All The World' manages the above admirably though.
As contemporary C&W albums go, 'Head Home' certainly stands out from the madding crowd - yet you get the feeling that O'Death aren't really a C&W band. There's a demonstrable affection for the genre to be sure but their remit appears to be provoking reaction through the debunking of musical convention - much like contemporary ska band The Slackers. For the most part, this schema works well enough but occasionally they do let their guard down and what you're left with is a dirty bloody scrap at the Double Deuce.
The worst of 'Head Home' sounds like a 'Music Inspired by the Motion Picture Back to the Future Part III' album - written and performed by a very drunk Billy Ray Cyrus who's just taken a very long trip to the doctor to be told he's got nob-rot. The best of 'Head Home' sounds like a 'Music Inspired by the Motion Picture Back to the Future Part III' album - written and performed by the very inebriated bastard son of Neil Young and Tom Waits (if that were biologically possible) who's just had a face-to-face with God and been told that he's going to have to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus harp on about his nob-rot for the rest of eternity.