Not Just Steers and Queers



Only steers and queers come from Texas (at least that is what I was taught by Full Metal Jacket), but it seems that good independent label pop rock may also be attributed to the state where the Alamo and Nolan Ryan really mean something. West Texas, the debut release by Jim Ward’s newest indie rock outfit, Sleepercar, displays a phenomenal mix many genres and elements.

Prior to listening to this album, my most recent experience with Jim Ward was his solo EP, Quiet. The EP was mundane and unimpressive, as far as I was concerned. I was on a kick where I reviewed music without doing any research into the band or any of the members in order to make a judgment on the music alone. This practice was brief and I returned to my typical business of researching the band before taking in the music. At that time, I listened to the Jim Ward EP and shrugged him off as a generic singer-songwriter that showed some hints of promise but never delivered. This go around, I read up on Ward and realized that he had indeed put out some great music in his past musical life as a member of the seminal post-punk outfit At the Drive In, so I figured giving him another shot would only be fair (as ATDI’s Relationship of Command is easily one of my top 10 albums of all-time).

Giving Ward a chance on this album was the right choice, as West Texas takes on the emergent alt-country style that has continually gained popularity in the indie scene and makes it something all its own. At moments, it reminds me of a time when emo wasn’t a derogatory term and bands like Piebald, The Promise Ring, and The Get Up Kids rocked the local firehalls and skating rinks of my hometown area in northern NJ. At other moments, it brings to mind the pop stylings of The Dandy Warhols. And yet at other moments, it brings to mind a more modern take on a Bob Dylan-esque folk sound. What does this all mean? Simply put, it’s a solid album… a thoroughly enjoyable album… and an album that can and should be embraced by college radio and satellite radio alike.

The opening track, “A Broken Promise”, begins with an ambient feel and a slow buildup before the guitar line comes in with a poppy Strokes vibe. The vocal soon follow and a very smooth and mellow pop tune is the end result. The song bleeds right into the next and the spirit of The Promise Ring is evoked in the lo-fi emo pop of one of the standout tracks on the album, a tune that is sure to be embraced by college radio if it hasn’t been already entitled “Wasting My Time”. Track by track, the album continues to roll on with songs that range in scope from wispy country songs (that sound like what My Morning Jacket and other indie darlings of alt-country SHOULD sound like) to songs that rock a bit harder and remind us of why the emo-rock genres once was before misappropriation of the term, now used to describe bands like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. Influences seem to vary from classic country to indie contemporaries to 1980’s college rock (ala REM); however, the final product is something that stands on its own as a solid debut that is hopefully just a taste of what is to come.

Overall, an album sure not to disappoint.

~ by thepaintedman on June 24, 2008.

One Response to “Not Just Steers and Queers”

  1. […] like to extend a warm congratulations to Jim Ward and his alt-country crew, Sleepercar, as landing a gig opening up on a Coldplay tour is quite a big deal. Check out a great alternative […]

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