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The Hangmen We’ve Got Blood On The Toes Of Our Boots

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, August 13, 2002 @ 0:14 AM

(Acetate Records)

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Hollywood dirt rock vets The Hangmen have been kickin’ around the scene for over a decade now and just seem to be getting better and better. After forming in the mid-‘80s and signing to Capitol Records in the wake of the post Guns N’ Roses feeding frenzy, the band got lost in the shuffle, dropped when their self-titled debut didn’t sell and eventually ended up on the skids, strung out on dope. Sound familiar? Yeah, like just about every other post-glam, pre-grunge act that got signed too soon and dropped even sooner. But the Hangmen were never really a glam band or a metal band like their teased-hair peers. Nope, they were, and are, a down n’ dirty, hard as nails, cheap as dirt, rock n’ roll outfit along the lines of the Heartbreakers (both Johnny Thunders’ and Tom Petty’s) and always fit more comfortably in the punk scene than the hard rock scene.

In the late ‘90s lead Hangman Bryan Small re-emerged from the gutter sober, wiser and more hellbent on makin’ it big than ever before. He reformed the band with ace guitarist Jimmy James (The Masons, The Comatones) and eventually settled drummer Todd Haney and bassist Angelique Congelton. The Hangmen Vol. 2 cut 2000’s devastating Metallic IOU album and did what few band’s have ever done before, topped their original lineup and debut album with a comeback effort that is miles above in every respect. After touring with the likes of the Supersuckers and Social Distortion, the band returned to L.A. and recoreded this live album, performing songs from their now out of print Capital debut, Metallic IOU, and more.

Quite simply, We’ve Got Blood On The Toes Of Our Boots is one of the best live albums in the last decade. Combing through cuts from both albums plus the unreleased “She Walks,” the Hangmen prove without a doubt that they are not only one of the best rock n’ roll bands around right now, but that Small is a masterful songwriter and graceful lyricist.

Recorded at Swinghouse, a recording/rehearsal studio in Hollywood, the band tear through every tune like it’s their last gig ever. Rockers like “Last Drive,” “Downtown,” and “Cry Cry Cry” are downright mean and vicious here, with guitars slashing through speakers like killers in the night and Small’s vocals whining out junkie street poetry for the corrupt and disenfranchised. Older songs like the band’s sorta-hit “Rotten Sunday” and the mid-tempo “Desperation Town” sound just as sleazy and buzzed as they did back in ’89, as do the slower numbers like “I Luv U” and “Kiss From You.” One listen to these slower songs and you’ll be as convinced that I am that Kurt Cobain was a Hangmen fan. Not that the two bands sound anything like each other, but there’s something in Small’s vocal delivery and guitar tone that just sounds like something Kurt woulda listened to, to ease the pain of late teens.

And speaking of the Seattle connection, super-fan Supersucker Eddie Spaghetti chimes in for a duet on “Coal Mine” and goddamn if doesn't know every word to this '89 era rocker. Throughout the proceedings we also get a harmonica player, a pedal steel player and keyboardist, all rounding out the sound quite nicely and adding a bit of dimension to these otherwise raw and randy set o’ tunes.

The two real highlights here though come in the form of an old chestnut and a newer soon-to-be-classic. “Walkin’ In the Woods” is a creepy sludgy number that could easily be on the soundtrack to some mad slasher flick, while “Bent” is the best songs Neil Young never wrote. Both numbers display a characteristic the Hangmen possess that few bands these days do, breathing room. Having been around for a coupla more years than most, the band understands the power of space and where NOT to play, allowing the songs to really breathe. Rather than bashing out every chord and shredding on every lead (though Jimmy James DOES shred, no doubt), the band picks the notes carefully and lets the silence roar. They make it sound so damn easy too...

My only complaint here would be that my two favorite Metallic IOU songs didn’t make the cut, “Broke, Drunk and Stoned” and “Loners, Junkies & Liquor Stores.” But maybe those song titles give you far more insight into my own habits and personality than you needed to know. Um… look… I gotta go…

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