stories to tellStories To Tell – The Hangmen (Acetate Records)

There’s a timeless quality about the music of The Hangmen that can’t be touched by many. Swagger meets roots rock on a seedy Los Angeles backstreet, they’re now up to Album Number Seven with no signs of the fire diminishing.

Formed in 1984 around singer-guitarist Bryan Small, signed by major labels (twice), they’re (yet another) American band chewed up and spat out by an industry that panders to the lowest common denominator. Always has, always will. Drugs got in the way, too. Raise a glass to little labels like L.A. imprint Acetate for giving them a home. 

Small and his original bandmates were inspired by (the American) X and The Gun Club. The cowpunk descriptor might spring to mind with some of their earlier records, although it’s not always so obvious. There’s an online description of The Hangmen that describes them as the Stones crossed with the Stooges. Can’t do any better n smallthan that - as “Stories To Tell” attests.

These are tunes about busted relationships, death and living on an edge, underpinned by equally dark melodies. 

“Broken Heartland” is a bracing rocker that opens proceedings, but most of these 10 tunes sit on a more sedate feel and stay there. Drummer Jorge Disguster and bassist Anqelique Congletonlay down a bed of languid, rhythms with real swing. Small’s drawling vocal and sharper-than-a-tack guitarwork from ace six-stringer Jimmy James add gritty textures. 

There’s slide guitar running through “Hard Luck Jim” like it means to slit its guts open. “The Last Time I Saw You” rocks urgently and is a tribute to departed Rontrose Heathman, the former Hangmen and Supersuckers guitarist.

The cover of “Sinister Purpose” (off Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River”) deserves to be bottled (and I don’t mean that in a soccer hooligan way). More Jimmy James slide adds its edge. “Behind The Wheel” sounds almost sunny in comparison until you realise it’s a song about driving to meet The Man when you’re off your chops. L.A. really has shit public transport. 

The title track is underpinned by a monstrously great feel. “On The Outside” is a wonderful kiss-off song that tells it like it is/was (“You’re a curse/Not the first”.) The swelling “Midnight Riders” builds to be an album highlight. 

Seriously great record in a line of them. Go sample on Bandcamp and tell me I’m wrong. If you don’t, we’ll presume your plastic card or Paypal account is in working order. 


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