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Normally when I go to review an album, whether it takes me the first listen through or weeks of listening, eventually I am able to come to some solid conclusions, draw four solid lines around the project if you will. When it comes to the Espanola, NM-based band The Imperial Rooster, and their album Decent People, I am stumped. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and imparts points for originality for sure, but it doesn’t make my job of describing this album, or trying to convince you whether you should like it or not very easy.
I have seen the term “gonzo” attributed to The Rooster, and that’s probably a good place to start. They’re not very “country” in the traditional sense, there is some old-time, almost Carter Family elements to it like on the last song of the album “Suzie Anna Riverstone”. But overall it is more of a string-based, rootsy band. “Weird” and “obscure” would be some other good descriptive words. They’re not dark or Gothic overall. There are some dark songs though. One reason I think I can’t place The Rooster completely is because I have not done enough hallucinogens in my time on this world planet, and the other is their dramatic diversity in style.
The album starts with the rousting, hoedown-style “Anything Goes At A Rooster Show”, which is your first taste of their offbeat sense of humor. There is a lot of humor in this album, though not in all the songs, and it is used in a variety of ways. Songs like “Anything Goes” and “DWI Marijuana Blues” use humor for more of a visceral “gonzo” response, while songs like “Korhn Sirup Sundae”, “The Sun” and even the porn-inspired “One Click Away (from Judgement Day)” use humor as a way to satirize modern life. From a lyrical standpoint, “Korhn Sirup” is the standout, and does an amazing job conveying universal fears in life, and allowing you to laugh at them. Think of Imperial Rooster as the jesters of dystopia.
“The Beast on the Backs of Our Children” and “45 Seconds of Blood” is where the album turns from dark humor to just plain dark, though with all the satire from the previous songs, there’s a satirical residue that permeates these tracks so you don’t take them too seriously. The album again takes you off guard with “McGinty’s”, a droning, Irish pub tune that humanizes the thousands and thousands of bars all over the world that act as many people’s second home or haven from despair. This song proves The Rooster can work with soul, not just satire.
The few things I know about this album for sure is that it is very original, very energetic, and at times, very funny. My guess is to fully appreciate The Rooster experience, one must see them live. But seeing them the first time, or on your first trip through this album, you may feel like the square sitting at the re-airing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in some downtown art house. While dressed-up freaks scream and yell at the screen, aping scenes in animated movie pews, you watch appreciating that something entertaining is going down, but understanding much of the entertainment is going whizzing right over your head.
Yes, it may take some time to calibrate your music brain around their approach, but without question The Imperial Rooster and Decent People is worth a sniff or two.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up!
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