REVIEWED IN CONTEXT: An Horse – Walls (Mom + Pop/Shock)
by Kelly McClure
One of the hardest things about being a music critic is the annoying little itchy prompting inside our brains that causes us to want to be honest and fair. As you may have guessed, chances are that if we’re reviewing your album, we’re not actually in a band ourselves. And before you start planning the perfect snarky online comment to that statement, look up a few lines and see that I did say “CHANCES”. If we’re going through the trouble of sacrificing endless, often unpaid, hours that could better be spent doing any variety of fun things like other kinds of garbage on the internet, just to listen to, think about, and write about your music, that must mean we like you. We may not like all bands, in fact I myself actually like very few when weighed against all the many that are out there, but we like the IDEA of bands.
With every rock star interview I conduct, every album put out by one of my favorite artists that I review, I am secretly hoping that the end result will be them befriending me and taking me on tour with them; offering up scandalous backstage moments through proximity, and perhaps letting me in on their bar tab. Or at the very least, I hope they use a quote from what I’ve written for their website. Which has happened a few times and let me tell you, it’s like heroin. So having said all that, it’s actually really hard to listen to an album by a rather popular, and honestly well-liked (because being well-liked is VERY different from being popular) artist and not want to suppress your initial reaction of, “Well, I’ve heard a lot worse, but it’s not moving me in any way”, but doing so just wouldn’t be honest, or fair.
The purpose of an album review is not really just to add to the folder of promo clips for bands (contrary to the belief and earnest hope of many a publicist) they’re to inform consumers of what’s worth, or not worth buying, and to let bands know, constructively what they’re doing and not doing well. So it’s with that that I say Walls, the latest release by An Horse, is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but is on all levels void of any sort of substance resembling piss and or vinegar. This album’s sugary cuteness and perky up-tempo bargain bin neon legwarmer sound (it makes sense, think about it) DOES have its place though. I can imagine that anyone would be thrilled to hear this playing while shopping for new jeans, or while sitting in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood to be called in for your yearly cooties checkup. Oh, what a comfort it would be then. You’d be able to write the band afterwards and say, “You know, I really dread having to pee in a cup, but as I was doing so I found myself humming one of your songs, and it really lifted my spirits”.
Dear An Horse, yes, you may use that last bit in your promotional materials. I did my best to slip something sweet in there for you. However I do suspect that you won’t be taking me on tour with you any time soon.