Album of the Week 43-2013: Galactic Cowboys – Galactic Cowboys

Creativity doesn’t always receive the appreciation that it deserves. Houston’s Galactic Cowboys knows. Their approach to Rock and Metal music remains unique to this day, which accounts for a highly unpredictable and therefore incredibly enjoyable listen even if you’ve heard their albums a million times. And for no album does that statement stand as strongly as for their self-titled 1991 debut, which is still pretty much unrivalled in terms of originality and composition. All of that with an admirable lack of pretense, as unlikely as that may sound.

Often compared to King’s X, the Galactic Cowboys merges Metal riffs with Beatles-like four part vocal harmonies to amazing effect. However, Galactic Cowboys is much more Thrashy in the riffing department, making the music sound more like a hybrid of Metallica’s more progressive work and early nineties Alternative Rock. But whatever you choose to label this, it’s good music for sure. The riffs on ‘Galactic Cowboys’ are generally a bit more Thrashy than on anything that came after and the compositions show a greater deal of – surprisingly – both variation and consistency, making this the ultimate Galactic Cowboys-album.

The band shows itself equally capable of raging Metal as well as engaging ballads. Especially with these vocal harmonies, the latter have the tendency to get too slick and sweet. ‘Someone For Everyone’ is borderline, but too well-written to be annoying, and ‘My School’ (probably the most Alt-Rock moment on the album) should have been a worldwide hit. Closing track ‘Speak To Me’ has a couple of beautiful, fragile, ballad-like moments as well, but its epic proportions allow the song to grow towards several rocking climaxes. A daring composition which works very well.

But the Rock side of things is maybe even more impressive. Opening track ‘I’m Not Amused’ combines Thrash Metal riffs with a highly melodic chorus and blues sections highlighted by singer Ben Huggins’ harmonica. ‘Why Can’t You Believe In Me’ is relatively straightforward in composition, but possibly the best track on the album together with the monstrous “psychedelic space Metal” of ‘Sea Of Tranquility’, in which Monty Colvin’s ugly bass sound and impressive twists in atmosphere are overwhelming. The Thrash Metal side of the band is best represented in ‘Kill Floor’ (despite its highly melodic verses) and the absolutely brilliant Exxon Valdez attack of ‘Kaptain Krude’.

As a fan of high-concept, I love the artwork as well, in which the lyrics are presented as letters from various institutions – many of them related to space travel – to clients and relations. Those who appreciate the humor that secretly creeps around some of the songs should pay close attention to them, as there is plenty to laugh about here.

Musically though, ‘Galactic Cowboys’ is an unrivaled masterpiece. The album contains elements that should appeal to any fan of Rock, Metal and even Pop with an open mind. In the current era of throw-away music, we should have more of these albums that are so much a labor of love that every song is brilliant. Galactic Cowboys would make more great albums – most notably ‘At The End Of The Day’ – with the Metal factor dialed back a bit, but ‘Galactic Cowboys’ is their magnum opus. Get it while it’s still relatively easy to obtain!

Recommended tracks: ‘Why Can’t You Belive In Me’, ‘Sea Of Tranquility’, ‘Kaptain Krude’, ‘I’m Not Amused’, ‘Speak To Me’

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