The Horse that Bud Bought
Artist: Galactic Cowboys
Label: Metal Blade Records

Progressive heavenly metal/hard rock hybrid with heaploads of hope.  On their fourth album (five if you count last year's EP Feel the Rage), that "other" band from Houston, Texas, offers a kinder and gentler version of their particular mosh-inducing musings.   My preference: more aggressive next time. Coming from these guys, this stuff seems on the wimpier side. Not every moment, mind you, but enough to slow the album down. There are fewer songs of "If I Were a Killer" intensity, although some like "Buzz," and "Tilt-a-Whirl" do capture that dizzying energy.   Which is to say that The Horse that Bud Bought continues the style they started on Machine Fish, yet in an even more understated fashion.   

The real strength of this album is the heady, nearly-prophetic lyrics: pointed, poignant, and in pace with our times.  In general, they both examine and lament the current state of our cultural affairs from the absurdity of political correctness to the duplicity of media bias. Along the way they also address the seductive power of cults, the imbecility of the music business ("Cloning is artistic suicide"), inappropriate finger-pointing and blame-laying, the traps of sensualism, and the general state of personal as well as universal sinfulness ("Everything I do hurts someone.  Story of my life"). It's heavy stuff that is not delivered with an unwieldy heavy hand, but rather with a sense of focused holy rage and remorse.  Like many of the Psalms, the righteous indignation is always coupled with godly hope. For example, in "Buzz," a fast-paced creative stream-of-consciousness assault, the central figure reaches out to God for deliverance from America's  misguided "open-minded" pursuit of false freedom.  Later in "I Can't Wait," the Galactic Cowboys juxtapose faith in Christ's restoring return with deplorable crimes committed in the last few years:

    A nut case in a tower polishing his holy gun
    reciting a nursery rhyme.
    Mama picks the kids up gives them both a kiss
    and drives them in a lake to die.
    People in confusion, people in despair.
    Solutions elemental.
    When all the psychological metaphysical self help
    mumbo jumbo seems so farcical.
    I care more cause I know what's in store.
    I care more because I know the score.
    I can't wait.  I can't wait!!!
If all this seems like a lot, well you're right.  It's a bounty of beefy topics to address all in one album.  Of course, they've set a precedent for not shrinking from controversial subjects.  Consequently, these songs are precisely what Galactic Cowboys have done before and exactly what you'd expect.   They've never been content merely writing songs about space ships and girls.  Actually, the one love song on the album, "Mona Lisa," comparing a love interest with  Leonardo's painting, comes off as the corniest carol in the collection.  Yet, they avoid the lame lyric trap more often than not with verses that are insightful, provocative, and sometimes even humourous: 
     There's much to be said for laboring in Obscurity.
     It's as under-rated as the benefits of suffering.  
     (from "Tilt-a-Whirl")

     They hold their meetings
     While I'm soaking in the tub.
     Russeau and Stalin
     Must be cheering in their graves.
     I hear that rhetoric
     In everything they say.
     (from "Media Slant")

The Horse that Bud Bought is an ambitious effort.  I just wish they had coupled these pertinent messages with more creative vehicles in keeping with the rich, diverse sounds of their first two albums (there are some noteworthy exceptions and a handful of real highlights, but...).  Plus infused the whole batch with more chutzpah.  Their music was heretofore injected with steroids. Here, in more places than not, it's more like Valium.  Especially given the heights these guys have taken us to  before.  Next time:  Let it rock!  Let it rock!  Let it rock!  

By Steven Stuart Baldwin