IN THE CITY - The Hangmen (Acetate Records)
The Hangmen are an enduring passion of mine. Originally, in 1989 Capitol Records released the bands debut CD at a time when the recording industry was looking for the next Guns and Roses replica anyhwere in downtown Los Angeles or on the Sunset Strip.   However, the only similiarities between both bands were a love for loud guitars, Johnny Thunders/New York Dolls affections and sharing the same stages on the late night punk circuit.

Stylistically, the two were also very different.  For example, for a band that was marketed towards hair metal fans, where does this "type" of  band come off choosing a cover of the great song by the Flaming Groovies ("Slow Death")?  You think the peroxide - lipstick/nail polish crowd got it?  Instead, the ordeal is yet another example of a label not "getting it".  The ultimate shame is that an incredible debut album ("The Hangmen") went by the wayside in 1989 - completely unnoticed by the public.  Since then the CD has become somewhat of a collector's/cult item. Over the next few years, lead vocalist - main songwriter Bryan Small  experienced some personal issues, numerous band changes, label problems and eventually the band faded into obscurity. (ED: The Hangmen recorded a second album, "Suicide Doors", in '93 with Radio Birdman's Rob Younger producing that remains unreleased thanks to the vagaries of Geffen Records.)

What happened next is typical of all great bands ahead of their time - tastes changed to the point where the Hangmen could exist and be more fully appreciated in a different time.  As an indication of a more receptive audience and a recognized influence on other bands, the band then reconvened (with a new line-up) in 1999 to record a  new album. In 2000, a new CD "Metallic I.O.U"  was released on a new label - Acetate - tours accompanying kindred spirits in the likes of the Supersuckers and Social Distortion soon followed and then the band entered what would be a very productive period for Small and co. In 2002, a smoking live album "We've Got Blood on the toes of our Boots" depicted the raw, primal energy of the band.  The live album has to be heard. It ranks up there in terms of one of the best live albums of this fading decade.  "Loteria" (2004) was a great follow-up further cementing Small as an accomplished songwriter.  In particular, Small has continued to harness and integrate the finer elements of blues, country and punk into the style of the sound of the band.

The Hangmen's newest release, "In The City"  continues in the time honored tradition of the band.  Honest, raw songs that display the bands' talent. Produced by Mike Ness of Social Distortion, the CD starts off with a great new track that will fit right into the band's live show:  "I Wanna Be Loved".  The track has the right amount of everything that makes a great song:  hooks, catchiness and tightness.  Lead guitarist Rane Raitsikka's solo adds a nice touch to the song.  

The second song on the CD keeps the energy at a high level .  "The Devil", co-written with Ness himself, has some impressive slide guitar; spinning a tale of fast cars, broken hearts and deceptive women.  "Dark Eyes" follows and displays the love / appreciation Bryan Small has for the tragic songwriter Jeffery Lee Pierce of Gun Club fame. Both men seek redemption and search for solace in the darkest places of human experience.  "King of The Road" is an medium tempo rocker filled with great licks and leads.  Listening to it, you could almost envision the track as being a leftover cut from Thunders 1978 classic album "So Alone".  Great stuff.

The two final tracks, "In The City" and "I Will Stay", close the album in fine fashion.  In particular, "I Will Stay" displays the romantic sensitivity you find in all great songwriters (i.e. Westerberg, Perret, etc) that mine that fragile aspect of maintaining love despite the insurmountable odds.

It's a nice to see a band such as The Hangmen continuing to thrive and grow.  In the past twenty years, main songwriter Bryan Small has created an ouvre of songs that depict a crash and burn lifestyle.  However, upon closer listening, theres a toughness and ever present optimism in the songs of Bryan Small that speak volumes about the romantic loser that resides within us. - Arthur S


LOTERIA - The Hangmen (Acetate)
What is it? Country junkie glam? Brooding swamp rock? Who gives a shit. Coming on like a cross between Gram Parsons-influenced Stones, the Gun Club and a less heavy Beasts of Bourbon, these Los Angeleno veterans carry it with a bedraggled panache that only only those who've made that deal with the devil can pull off.

It's pretty clear why bands like The Supersuckers and L7 have cited these guys as an influence. This is the sort of music that declines to be confined to one genre or pigeonhole. It also puts the whole cowpunk thing from the '80s in perspective.

While Australians like Tex Deadly and the Dum Dums and the Johnnys were largely playing it for laughs on the back of the Cramps, on the other side of the world an earlier configuration of The Hangmen was doing things for keeps, doing all sorts of damage in the then-booming clubs of L.A. Half the clubs are shut now but the mascara remains, as does the sense of world weariness and defiance.

Opening track "Blood Red" sets it up from the get-go: A burst of guitars and Todd Haney's drum fills before Bryan Small spits out his lyrics of revenge and (no) regret. Killer chorus, great tune.

"Loteria" swings from languid, country plodders ("Sleeping on the Floor" is about truck drivers but could summon visions of the world of the rock and roll roadtrip equally well, while string work a treat in the reflective "Can't Stop That Train") to addictive gnarly rockers ("Never Go Home", "Here She Comes".) There's even the expansive closer ("I Just Wanna Feel Good") that wraps these sometimes tellingly personal stories of life one step removed from the streets of uncompromising LA.

If you're going to cover the Stones in their heyday, you better make a good job of it, and The Hangmen pull it off on "Citadel".

One of the best releases of 2004, for sure. - The Barman