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–GALACTIC COWBOYS: Space In Your Face (1993)

–GALACTIC COWBOYS: Space In Your Face  (1993) 

The 1990s was a challenging time for heavy metal. For those of us old enough to remember those dark ages of musical misery, that is one major understatement. Hard rocking MTV superstars of the ’80s were breaking up and being dropped from labels right and left amid the alternative rock and grunge onslaught. Beloved arena-packing icons such as Iron MaidenJudas Priest, and Dio were now relegated to touring small clubs and theaters in the U.S.; we fans, meanwhile, were reduced to digging for mere scraps in the suddenly nonexistent metal sections of record stores. Then, about five years later, the explosion of the “nu metal” movement/plague sounded to me like the final death knell for decent musicality in general. No, I spell my delicious popCorn with a freaking “C”– thank you very much. 

Yet, arising from the ashes of this musical holocaust, a few phoenixes soared high above the desolation and laughed. Houston’s Galactic Cowboys were one such act, a truly unique band that took their eternal quest for creativity and experimentation almost as seriously as their embrace of bizarre silliness. From the moment I first watched the video for “I’m Not Amused,” their first single, on Headbangers Ball, I sat there bemused — and, also, a bit amused. Here stood these four zany longhairs in the desert playing this insane smorgasbord of a metal tune. This song alternated between acoustic Mariachi strumming, bludgeoning thrash riffs, bluesy harmonica solos, full-on speed metal, and gorgeous vocal harmonies that would have made The Beatles jealous. But rather than sounding disjointed or merely schizophrenic, “I’m Not Amused” was original and captivating. My GC fandom was launched. 

Now, choosing a specific Galactic Cowboys album to showcase is no simple decision. Their self-titled 1991 debut is no slouch whatsoever, featuring such inimitable crossover favorites as “My School,” “Someone for Everyone,” and of course, “I’m Not Amused.” Their third record, 1996’s Machine Fish, finds the GC boys branching out into some more modern soundscapes. It took some getting used to, but it’s a grower. But on Space In Your Face, they sound the most comfortable in their own skins. The GC sound is more focused and crystallized without losing one iota of their unique charms. Let’s dig into Space

On Space In Your Face, the Galactic Cowboys — lead vocalist Ben Huggins, bassist Monty Colvin, guitarist Dane Sonnier, and drummer/”attempted keyboardist” Alan Doss — burn all their solid rocket fuel on intense and compelling songs. Sonnier’s guitar riffs juxtapose a bluesy swagger with aggressive thrash rhythms, while Huggins’ acoustic parts provide the dynamic counterpoint. Colvin, who’s also GC’s principal songwriter, plays lively, picked bass lines with a tone that is downright filthy. 

Huggins’ lead vocals are pleasant and warm in a glam-metal sort of way; think of some RattW.A.S.P., and perhaps Don Dokken thrown into a blender. Doss, for his part, delivers a ferocious hardcore punk intensity from the drum stool. This diverse package is enveloped by a giant bow of catchy pop-rock choruses and gorgeous vocal harmonies. 

Opening like a juggernaut, the brief introductory title track, with its swirling interplay of intricate thrash rhythms and jarring meter changes, raises the listener’s heart rate to dangerous levels. This segues into the driving first single, “You Make Me Smile,” an appropriately catchy and schizo sister track to “I’m Not Amused.” Next up, “I Do What I Do” is a dynamic diamond; its contrasts between the cleanly-arpeggiated verses, sublime chorus harmonies, and exhilarating Metallica-esque excursions are some of GC’s finest moments. “Circles In the Fields” is a straight-ahead thrashing ode to crop circles, and the band spares no spit nor venom in the purely belligerent rocker, “If I Were a Killer.” 

Some of Space’s most melodic moments are also its most endearing. Take, for instance, “Blind,” a lovely, mid-tempo quasi-ballad that never loses its metallic crunch. “No Problems” is a beautiful and harmonious tribute to personal perseverance and gratitude. 

On “Where Are You Now?,” the album’s crunchy, almost sludgy closer, Huggins nostalgically ponders the fate of old high-school crushes. As the band stomps through a looping culminating riff, the listener hears Colvin cold calling a few ex-female classmates. Sylvia, the first young woman he calls, is pleasant and polite, if ultimately clueless as to who Monty Colvin from High School is. “But you’re not a country band?” He’s much less lucky with his second caller, however: “Look! I don’t know who you are, and I don’t appreciate this. So don’t call back!” Ouch. 

But there’s a silver lining to this tragic tale. The Galactic Cowboys have reformed after nearly 20 years apart. Expect their brand new album, Long Way Back to the Moon, out Friday, November 17th. Now that really makes me smile — when it’s said and done. –Jonathan Kollnot 

–Tracklisting: 1.) Space In Your Face 2.) You Make Me Smile 3.) I Do What I Do 4.) Circles In the Fields 5.) If I Were a Killer 6.) Blind 7.) No Problems 8.) About Mrs. Leslie 9.) Where Are You Now?

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on November 13, 2017.

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