Hangmen – East of Western

January 01, 1970





When the Hangmen first hit the Los Angeles music scene in the late ‘80s, the
long-haired quartet was mistaken for a hair metal act and unfortunately
marketed as such by Capitol Records. When the rootsy grit-rockers on the band’s
self-titled LP didn’t give mousse-abused Sunset Strip rats any thrills, the
Hangmen were dropped, signed by Geffen, and dropped again without releasing
record 2. That’s usually the end of the story, but leader Bryan Small refused
to surrender, getting past his drug addiction and keeping the band going as an
indie label entity with a series of strong records in the last decade.


The sixth Hangmen album, East
of Western
continues the upward arc of 2007’s Mike Ness-produced In the City with a consistently fine set
of steely street rockers and unsentimental ballads. The criminals and
blue-collar workers that populate snarling stompers like “Railroad Man,”
“Graverobbers” and “Homesick Blues” exude defiance as much as desperation,
keeping spit and spirit alive no matter how close to the hips the alligators
get. Romance drinks a bitter brew as well in the C&W-inflected “Betrayed,”
the crawling “Haunted” and the Stonesified “Had a Girl,” and a blazing cover of
the Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked” betrays roots in more than Jagger, Richards
and Thunders.  


The quartet’s teeth-gritting delivery suits its subject
matter, giving the proceedings a sense of danger most rock & roll lacks. “I’m
Your Man” may give love the thumbs-up, but in the Hangmen’s hands it sounds
like a threat. New axeman Ron Heathman (ex-Supersuckers) proves to be the right
partner to augment Small’s bitter sneer, and the unfussy production captures the band in all its glory. East of Western may be the Hangmen’s
truest shot of the mean streets yet.    



DOWNLOAD: “Homesick
Blues,” “Had a Girl,” “I’m Your Man” MICHAEL TOLAND


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