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Rodeo Boy | The Pine and Promise (Sit-n-Spin)
From its unassuming and pensive beginning, coaxed from a single electric guitar, The Wanting Bird, the opening track on Rodeo Boy's third album, soon soars on a steady backbeat and a mournful violin. "Maybe a few got caught on the crossed arm of a telephone pole," James Reardon sings, "and I'm waiting for the plainsong of a wanting bird to come and free the words." The song grows momentum, changes tempo, remains beautiful. Reardon's voice is fascinating; impassioned, raw and vulnerable - somehow all these things. It's Molina and Martsch, it's Mark Olson and it's Neil Young. And, of course, it's none of these things. On Blue Knows it's Elliott Smith and Sloan's Jay Ferguson as the band switch gears in unison, a single vehicle negotiating the curves. Two songs in, we're hooked, demanding more. We get more. Combat The Idea steals its intro unknowingly from a place buried in the darkest recesses of my brain (right now I'd pay to remember), before stumbling into a rock-solid groove, loose-lipped Mother Hips guitars trading licks behind Reardon throwing out lines a la the Sea and Cake's Parasol. It's that kind of record; where comparisons that just don't belong together demand to be introduced. Did I mention Brendan Benson yet? 'The Pine and Promise' has it all, straddling the rock/pop divide like 'Hollywood Town Hall' and 'The Green Hills of Earth' do, bringing together all that's good in those bloated genres. And they just keep it coming, each song promising something new, like this 'Exile on Main St.' swagger at the end of Oh The Pageantry. Never cute, the band's MO seems to have been 'keep it interesting for everybody' ?? but every unexpected left turn feels right for the song. There's nothing innovative about 'The P & P' (familiarity positively pours from this record), but Rodeo Boy convince you that you're hearing it for the first time, such is the ebullience they inspire. Eschewing verse/chorus structure without ripping out the heart, this is so not the band that inspired this glib on-line one-liner: "a smart, young, emo-leaning combo full of promise." No, on this evidence, Rodeo Boy could quit the biz altogether knowing they've left us with a classic.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002