Not the Kind of Rodeo You Were Expecting, Was It?

The Nixon Rodeo is a local Spokane band that caught my interest three years ago, when out of the blue, I happened to miss them opening at Rock Hard at the Park, but ended up running into their drummer, Ethan Harrison, at a Shari’s in Spokane Valley after the show.  I remember having a short conversation with him that ended with him running out to his car to grab their debut album “Made To Bleed” to give to me.  That album has not left my car since and every chance I’ve had, I’ve gone to see them live.  I have been addicted ever since.

It was my pleasure last weekend to not only watch them play one, but two, two hour sets to celebrate the release of their new album “Relentless” and snag a copy.  I’d been streaming it on Spotify the week previous and listened to it a few times in the car with my boyfriend, but I was itching to get the CD in my car on repeat.  So I listened to it eight times in one day and here I am, writing a review on what is easily my favorite album of the year.

The Nixon Rodeo has always been a heady blend of punk, alt-rock, metal, and post hardcore that can satisfy the heart of any rock and roll fan and they delivered all of that and more with the new record.  The quiet intro sparked with gunfire and distant sirens is reminiscent of Metallica’s “One” and brings the same sense of anticipation that doesn’t quite wholly prepare you for what you are about to experience.  In what is arguably a second intro, Ethan jumps in and introduces The Nixon Rodeo, because why the heck not introduce yourself on your own record.  His opening screams “Raise the bar” set the tone for the entire album.  The Nixon Rodeo definitely raised the bar.

They open with the single “Hesitation’s an Indication” that showcases all that The Nixon Rodeo has to offer: Brent’s incredible, diverse, vocal range, Josh shredding out a classically rock and roll guitar solo, iconic punk rock gang vocals lending an anthem-like feel and Ethan’s powerful screams lacing the track with a hardcore vibe.  Diving right into their fourth track with another single “Now you Got My Attention” we are immediately assaulted with the same level of vocal strength and complex lyrics.

The Rodeo brings a mixture of cleans and screams that are often at odds with each other, creating a dichotomy that singles out certain parts of the lyrics.  Definitely my favorite example is in “Back and Forth” where during the pre-chorus, Brent sings “I don’t wanna talk” and Ethan cuts in screaming “I wanna talk!” and takes over.  This primes the way for Ethan’s spoken part after the chorus and makes you stand up and pay attention.  To counter that, the two vocalists also use each other as a balance for their melodies, lining up cleans and screams in perfect execution.

“Uncontrollable” delivers the tried and true anthem for all of those who have experienced the pressure of trying to be someone that they are not.  The Nixon Rodeo throws us their take on this often overused cliche and delivers a fresh stance that I credit to great writing.  A vein that runs through all of the Rodeo’s lyrics is rhyme, which usually sounds awful and forced, but here adds a poetic structure that makes what simply could have been a good song, a great song.  For instance:
“And now we’re still here waiting
Understating, illustrating
A tragic ending to a fucked up song
I hope everyone will sing along”
There are definitely incomplete or off rhymes that don’t match up with some of the more complete rhymes and jar the ear a bit, but for the most part the songwriting is solid and poetically executed.

What I enjoyed most about this album was how every song was different.  Different lyrically, musically, structurally.  Some tracks were resoundingly metal, like “Hesitation,” “Found ME In Team” and “Now You’ve Got My Attention.”  There was a slow, pop punk ballad, “Scandal” and some classic rock and roll tracks, “Back and Forth,” “Uncontrollable” and their cover of “Billie Jean.”  Then, in absolute Rodeo style, they brought in a completely unique and great element to the track “Now or Never,” the inclusion of the “Rodeo” chant.   The battle cry of The Nixon Rodeo’s fans.  The song itself is about the fans and the appropriateness of including the chant lent an intimate feeling to the song that could have been accomplished no other way.  They round out the album by including a fast paced angst-y punk song “Keep Me Awake” and another slow, beautiful ballad in “A Chance to Tell You.”

It is worth mentioning that this is a talented group of guys who not only recorded songs on this record playing more than one instrument, but they switch it up on stage too. Travis jumps on drums for Ethan during the more scream-heavy songs and I’ve seen Brent take over the bass, though they like to bring up guest musicians to help out during these songs as well.  Some bands can hardly pull off one sound live, let alone a mix of different genres, but The Nixon Rodeo does it all.  Their unique musicality isn’t lost during the live set and they are one of the most fun, high-energy bands I’ve seen perform.  They sound clean and well-rehearsed, something I’ve learned to appreciate from a live band.  Two nights, two hours, back to back and I couldn’t have been more impressed.

I could sit here and dissect every song on this album and explain exactly how each part makes the whole a great record, but I will refrain from spilling my guts on the topic.  The Nixon Rodeo’s third album, “Relentless” is for those of you who love rock music.  The diversity of the songs, the original lyrical content, and ability to do each of these songs justice live, two nights, back to back, is what makes “Relentless,” and The Nixon Rodeo, outstanding.

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