The new record from Raygun Cowboys – Tales About Life, The Road, and Life on The Road, out yesterday via UK-based Diablo Records – features a few great blasts of psychobilly noise, for sure. (And there’s one excellent, unexpected cover; more on that later.) The thing that’s interesting about the 10-track LP, though, is how the band refrains from doing the same humdrum 1-2/1-2 stomp ad infinitum; this is a record with legs that stretch.

For a case in point, take the third track, “Truth.” Yes, it does have that winning, grungy-bar-minted mixture of Reverend Horton Heat momentum, Messer Chups strut and Cramps grime, but it also revolves around a somber narrative drive and vocal range that’s not always present in the genre, almost as if one of the aforementioned bands was fronted by Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings. The band is great at wringing sentiment from its reverb-drenched refrains; on “Jonesin,” the big chorus is a little bit like a rough-around-the-edges Shadowy Men (less Canadian, too). Here, the vitriol is awesomely capped off with a lead singer who’s not afraid to belt out a vulnerable refrain.

But, don’t go thinking these guys are a collection of limp, wet noodles posing in their photo-ready leather jackets. The shortest song on the LP, the pitch-perfect “Live My Life For Rock N’ Roll,” is saturated with abrasive guitar textures and barked vocals, a nugget of pure adrenaline. And it is far from alone.

Yeah, yeah, not every song is a winner. “Bringing It Home Tonight,” a lumbering ballad of sorts, doesn’t quite fit the tone much of the record aims to hit and, even in its brighter moments, I’m not much of a fan of it. But the Cowboys more than make up for that misstep with the album closer, an aggressive but still reverent cover of Dire Straits staple “Walk of Life.” (It retains the baseball-stadium organ line, features some great horns, and is amped up in all the right ways. Epic fade-out, too, for what it’s worth.)

And, if you’re thinking of forking over some hard-earned cash for it, go for the vinyl. The version of the LP I sampled digitally was a little bit pixelated around the compressed edges, especially the drums in parts. That, though, might be one of the record’s very few flaws. In short, this thing rocks.


By Justin Vellucci

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer at MusicTAP and Popdose, a contributor to Pittsburgh City Paper and Punksburgh, and a former staffer at Delusions of Adequacy and Punk Planet. His music writing has appeared in national publications such as American Songwriter and PopMatters, alt-weeklies The Brooklyn Rail and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.