Heads Are Gonna Roll!
For most, Edmonton, Alberta’s Raygun Cowboys will likely need an introduction, but once you hear the quintet’s unique brand of ten-gallon-hat psychobilly meets swanky brass flavoured tunes it’s not something you’ll soon forget. With influences ranging from The Creepshow and Tiger Army to Mad Caddies and The Resignators, wrapping one’s head around such a concoction really only comes from experiencing the roughneck party first hand. As it turns out, their latest full length, Heads Are Gonna Roll! is as good a place as any for an initiation.
At their core, Raygun Cowboys play for the pulse pounding thrill of the rockabilly-brass hybrid. Tracks like opener “Heads Are Gonna Roll” let the upright bass lead the way with a flurry of horn injected, ear-grabbing chorus lines. The effect succeeds in part due to the 50’s rock n’ roll nature fitting so well alongside the big band, dancehall swing that it historically emerged from. “Don’t Know Why” and “You Were The One” offer up likeminded, toe tapping calls to get those hips shaking down at your local dancehall by picking up the pace with that iconic, super catchy, bass slappin’ action. Others like “On The Shine” further pick up the punk n’ roll pace with sweeping vocal harmonies.
But as “Bitter Shame” makes clear, Raygun Cowboys have since branched out from their innovative beginnings to further broaden their bag of tricks. The track lays low, injecting the album with an atmospheric, heavy hanging, distorted country twang akin to that of Nick 13, Joel Kaiser and The Long Tall Texans. “Twin Falls” follows suit, exploring a Willie Nelson-style country road sound complete with harmonica and female duet. Similarly, “In These Walls” further reveals the surprising depth of which Raygun Cowboys are capable. The inclusion of a slow stroked fiddle taking the place of the horns will beg comparisons to Murder By Death, and the vocal call of traditional First Nations chants are hauntingly atmospheric. It’s yet another example of Raygun Cowboys infusing the unexpected to evoke the thought, “why hasn’t anyone done this before?”
Heads Are Gonna Roll!’s only weakness emerges in some of the safer, midtempo rockabilly pieces. For instance, “Nothin’ Left To Lose” and “Until Next Time” bare the prototypical resemblance to the neo-rockabilly stylings of Hellbound Hepcats (who are great in their own right, but not what you’d want alongside Raygun Cowboys’ dynamism). Compared with the roughneck riffs driving “Drinking Through The End Of The World,” the straightforward, midtempo approach loses some steam. A song like “Movin’ On,” in which an intimate acoustic startup slowly evolves piece by piece into a bass heavy country trotter, and eventually a full band, brass embracing psychobilly charger just fits the Raygun Cowboy mould so much tighter.
As far as psychobilly goes, you can’t get much more out of the box then Heads Are Gonna Roll!. And after nearly fifteen years of honing their sound, Raygun Cowboys really do know how to turn heads with their undeniably catchy brand of brass meets psychobilly tunage. Don’t let the obscurity of it all deter you, jump in and join the boot stomp’n party – or heads really are gonna roll!