A review from Phil’s Picks: Greenville, NORTH Carolina

Posted on July 2, 2021

Early this year, the independent music collective known as Werke Horse released its new self-titled album to the masses digitally through its official Bandcamp page.  As the eight songs that make up the record’s body show, this group really is “an undefinable band” (as it calls itself).  From one to the next, the songs offer audiences something different and unique, ensuring listeners’ maintained engagement and entertainment throughout.  This is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike.  ‘Home School Miracle’ – one of those eight total songs – is a clear exhibition of how the album’s musical and lyrical content makes the record worth hearing.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Dead People Can’t Vote,’ the album’s penultimate entry, is another way in which the album’s collective content makes it so interesting.  It will be discussed a little later.  Much the same can be said of ‘Yellow Cab,’ an early entry in the album.  It will also be discussed later.  All three songs noted here are important in their own way in showing what makes Werke Horse a unique album.  When they are considered along with the five other songs that make up the rest of the album, the whole of that content makes the album an interesting addition to this year’s field of new independent albums.

Werke Horse’s new self-titled album, released this past January independently by the band, is a unique addition to this year’s field of new independent albums.  That is due to its wide range of musical and lyrical content.  ‘Home School Miracle’ is just one of the songs featured in this album that serves to support the noted statements.  The musical arrangement featured in ‘Home School Miracle’ is definitely a unique presentation in itself.  On one hand, one can hear the influence of The B-52s here, what with the combination of the bass, vocals, guitar, and keyboards.  On another hand there is also a touch of what sounds like a Devo influence.  Even with those influences in mind, the band, led by Dan Hereford, still managed to craft a sound here that boasts its own unique identity.  What’s more, the sound and stylistic approach taken and presented here is certain to engage and entertain audiences of the noted bands and of this band.  There is even a touch of some classic prog added to the mix to make things even more interesting.  The unique approach and sound featured here does well to compliment the song’s lyrical theme.

The lyrical theme featured in this song comes across as a sort of sarcastic indictment of America’s public schools.  More specifically, it comes across as an indictment of what the nation’s schools are doing wrong.  This is inferred from the song’s lead verse, which states, “I rode to a factory school on a bus burnin’ diesel fuel/I had a home-room teacher/Mr. Kool-Aid Teacher/Hang on/What did I learn?/Zero tolerance/Prison jumpsuits for all of us/They had the cameras spinnin’/In a school to prison parade.”  This again comes across as a not so veiled commentary about what public schools have been doing for decades and continue to do today.  The mention of the school to prison parade comes across as a commentary of how little so many schools actually benefit to certain groups.  The seeming indictment of the nation’s public school system continues in the song’s second verse, which states, “The loud speaker called me down/One size fits all/Told me I’m a clown/Put me in detention when I asked for whom the bell tolls/Resource officer hack/Law enforcement was hot on my back/That’s when I grew some wings/I packed my bags and things/I was gone/Yee-haw!”  The “one size fits all” mention seems to be a statement about how students are lumped into certain groups.  That additional mention of being sent to detention for basically questioning authority is a classic theme of rock.  Here, the song comes across as speaking out against those powers that be in schools for punishing students just for being curious and questioning things.  The song’s third verse finds the song’s subject stating that going to home school led the subject to be ostracized by his former public school counterparts but not really caring.  If in fact everything noted here is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark, then it makes even clearer, the import of the song’s lyrical theme.  Few if any acts across the musical universe have gone after the nation’s education system.  Rage Against The Machine is one of the only acts that this critic can think of that has so openly gone after the system.  It did so in the song, ‘Know Your Enemy’ (from its self-titled debut).  So if in fact Werke Horse is doing the same thing here, then it has done so in a unique fashion and has in the process, become one of very few acts to make such commentary.  To that end, it does its own share to show what makes this album stand out.  It is just one of the songs featured in this album that serves to show the album’s strength.  ‘Dead People Can’t Vote’ is another example of the album’s strength.

‘Dead People Can’t Vote’ presents a musical arrangement that is completely unlike that featured in ‘Home School Miracle.’  In place of the 80s-infused sound and stylistic approach in that case, this song instead goes in a clear country western direction.  It is such a stark difference from that other song’s arrangement that it will leave audiences scratching their heads in disbelief but still loving the arrangement with its Willie Nelson meets Hank Williams hybrid sound and stylistic approach.  The arrangement is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The seemingly satirical commentary about certain groups’ claims about dead people voting in the 2020 election in the song’s lyrical content adds even more to the song’s interest.

The supposed commentary is inferred in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “The other day…As I was walkin’/Past the tomb of the registered voter/I said, ‘How unfair our ancestors are there/The dead people can’t vote at all/The dead people can’t vote at all/Except in Chicago and Florida/Ya’ know/Worked their fingers to the bone/For an 8’X3’ home/The dead people can’t vote at all.”  It comes across as a sort of Daily Show sort of parody that makes fun of those groups who alleged that dead people were voting for Biden during the election.  The seeming joking commentary continues in the song’s second verse, stating, “Now the dead people can’t vote at all/’Cause that ain’t legal/Aaand if it ain’t legal/It might be wrong/But Right or wrong we can sing this song/The dead people can’t vote at all.”  The mentions in the song’s third verse of voter ID and voting multiple times makes it seem even more, that this song is a sarcastic examination of everything that happened during the recent election.  What’s more, that these issues continue to be in the news to this day, it makes this seeming commentary remain relevant.  In turn, it makes the song that much stronger of a presentation.  When this is considered along with the song’s musical arrangement, the whole makes this song even clearer an example of what makes Werke Horse a unique album.  It is just one more way in which the album proves itself worth hearing, too.  ‘Yellow Cab’ is one more way in which Werke Horse shows its unique identity.

‘Yellow Cab’ is another unique work in terms of its musical arrangement.  The arrangement in this case throws back to some of the sounds of the 70s.  This is evidenced in the pairing of the bass and drums with the vocals.  There is almost what seems like a Rush sort of influence here along with other influences to make the arrangement complete.  Once again, even with those noted seeming influences, the arrangement still bears its own unique identity.  That unique identity continues to prove that this band really cannot be categorized as one type of group or another.  Add in the arrangement’s companion lyrical theme and things get even more interesting.

It is just this critic’s interpretation, but the theme here comes across as being about the simple joy of riding in a cab.  That is inferred with the mentions of “grabbing a cab” and “throwing a kiss” and the “freedom” of being “in a yellow cab” throughout the song’s verses and choruses.  The further encouragement to “take a trip…Grab a hold and climb aboard” seems to infer that seeming theme even more.  Once again, if indeed that is the case, then it is a completely original work.  Yes, there are songs out there that encourage listeners to appreciate simple things in life, but this song is one if not the only song that apparently makes a ride in a cab one of those simple things.  It is just one more way in which the album’s overall content proves so strong.  When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s works, that whole makes clear, what makes Werke Horse such an interesting offering from its namesake.

Independent music collective Werke Horse’s new self-titled album is a unique addition to this year’s field of new independent albums.  That is proven from record’s opening to its end.  Each song presents its own unique musical arrangement from one to the next.  Additionally, each presents an equally engaging lyrical theme.  All three of the songs examined here serve well to support the noted statements.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes the album well worth hearing at least once.  Werke Horse is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at https://werkehorse.com

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