The video for the Rodeo Massacre’s first single, ’Mama Told Me So’, provides a vignette of the scenario when their debut album is (I can imagine) indispensible: gunning it through the desert in an unnecessarily large American muscle car, with gratuitous amounts of substances pumping through your veins, lane-weaving as the sun gradually melts behind the horizon. However, if you don’t see yourself cruising through the barren topography of Joshua Tree anytime soon, then admittedly the M3 might have to do. ‘If You Can’t Smoke ‘em, Sell ‘em’ is ideal road trip music. It’s best played loud (necessary to combat the noise levels of air whipping through open windows) and every song has an instantly catchy hook that can be belted out at the top of your lungs, without the need for repeat album listens, or intense scouring of the lyrics booklet.
Despite hailing from Sweden and Paris, and living in London, Rodeo Massacre sound uncannily American. If you close your eyes during the fourth track- ‘Turning Wheel’- don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve been transported to the sweaty recesses of L.A.’s Viper Room, or a smoke filled back room in a dingy Greenwich Village club, during ‘68. There are obviously counter arguments of genre “influence” and historical categorization that can be made here, but the over-riding sound of this album is less trippy psychedelia, and more jam-rock blues. Having recruited some friends from the bands of Adam and the Ants and Kate Bush to add some auxiliary noodling to their recorded sound, some of Rodeo Massacre’s most engaging and original sounding material on ‘If You Can’t Smoke ‘em, Sell ‘em’ are their Grateful Dead-esque meandering instrumental adventures. ‘Desert Man’’s Wild West trumpet solo and the hushed flute outro to ‘I’m Eighteen’ need to be listened to with the landscape zipping past at ninety miles per hour.
Some might argue that the band’s sound is anachronistic in the current musical landscape; much the same accusation that certain people might level at, for example, Wolfmother or The 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. However, there is always a place for no holds barred guitar music, you just have to make the call as to how loud your eardrums can take it.