Rapider Than Horsepower – Stage Fright, Stage Fright…

5 out of 5

Label: Essay Records

Produced by: Mike Dixon (?)

The first time you heard early era Racebannon, whether or not you bought into the hype of the time, or whether or not they were your cup of spazzy hardcore tea, at the very least… I’d hazard they made an impression.

Now: take vocalist Mike Anderson’s frantic, oft-multitracked vocal howl, and the group’s general short attention span riffage, unplug the distortion, toss in group vocals, map this stuff to coked-up campfire singalongs, and… you have Rapider Than Horsepower?

And regardless of your take, once again: they make an impression.

The difference, though – beyond the genre and stylistic stuff, heh – is that this “impression” is disarming while also being memorable; it’s weird – Anderson’s singing style is always a bit unhinged, even when singing “straight” – and the narratives about, say, caterpillars falling in love, are always offset by some lines that speak to an undercurrent of darkness – but the weirdness is only disarming because of how sunshiney and catchy the whole thing is. Everyone sounds excited to be in RTH, the stage fright anxiety of the album title (also in the narrative) making for fun performance jitters, not some lamentable occurrence. So you’re swept up by the performance, despite its quirk.

And if you stay until the end, a big part of the lasting nature of the disc – that it’s not just a lark of kookiness – can be found as the undercurrent sneaks out: a final singalong that has the group shout-spelling out their band name devolves into misspellings, and forfeit. Which, on repeat, brilliantly wraps around to the opening track’s high cheer.

An experience, and a great album.