They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Pick Up Sticks

[Kill Rock Stars; 2007]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: carnival/circus/funhouse in hell, farts
Others: Man Man, Liars, Xiu Xiu, Captain Beefheart

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? can be summed up by one of the press photos on their website. The photo depicts the band members sitting around a campfire while a dude with an ass for a face plays a French horn. All puns aside, it’s completely asinine and juvenile -- and not in that ironic way like when you act like a five-year-old and make penis jokes, but in that way that's just really stupid.

Imagine if Man Man and Liars had a baby, and then that baby started a band that wasn’t very good and you’ve pretty much got TSHDT. To be fair, I get what the band is going for; the whole demented carnival vibe they’ve got is a good idea, and usually things like this are right up my alley. But as much of a fan as I am of horn sections that sound like they’re dying, I can barely make it all the way through Pick Up Sticks. The music really isn’t half bad, but it’s essentially ruined by founder/singer Nut Brown shouting like a bad Jamie Stewart impersonator over the top of it. Or maybe it’s Carey Mercer. Or maybe it’s some kind of Stewart/Mercer baby.

I don’t want to call They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? phony because I’ve never talked to them, but just based on this record, it seems to me they’re just being weird for the sake of being weird; the songs are almost an afterthought. Maybe I’m being unfair, but seriously guys, this is inexcusable. It’s 2007; we’re past the whole “look how difficult we are” thing. I will cut them some slack and say that their frenzied funhouse sound is probably way better live than on record, and if Nut Brown wasn’t whining all over the album, I’d probably bump the score up at least a point. But as it is, I’m going to have to say this is one to skip.

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