Galactic Cowboys

Galactic Cowboys

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After the incredible critical acclaim bestowed upon their management mates and musical stepbrothers King's X, the Galactic Cowboys were quickly snapped up by the usually shrewd (at least in the early '90s) folks at Geffen Records, who no doubt had visions of turning the Houston scene into the next Seattle. Sadly, like King's X, the Cowboys' mind-boggling sonic tapestries would prove much too complex and highbrow for all but the most specialized listeners and sympathetic members of the press. After all, with their Metallica-like heaviness, Beatlesque three-part vocal harmonies ,and wildly fluctuating rhythms, songs like "My School" and first single "I'm Not Amused" (introduced by a mooing cow -- a sign of the band's quirky sense of humor) were simply unplayable at any commercial radio station. And though it may have proved a wiser choice for the airwaves, the slightly less adventurous "Why Can't You Believe in Me" (featuring countless layers of guitars the likes of which would not be seen again until the Smashing Pumpkins' first few albums) was probably passed up on because it sounded a bit too much like King's X. But if you dispense with commercial considerations, this remains a stunning album for the open-minded listener who will revel in discovering new secrets with every listen. After taking a swipe at the Exxon Valdez disaster with the excellent "Kaptain Krude" just to prove they weren't complete space cadets, the Galactic Cowboys really launch into outer space with the five-song suite contained on side two. Beginning with the monstrous "Sea of Tranquility," which sums up their vast array of sounds better than any other song, the band goes on to unleash their purest thrash metal moment with the bloody "Killing Floor" (the tale of a butcher turned serial killer) and zip through two brief interludes (the hillbilly stomp "Pump Up the Space Suit" and the dreamy "Ranch on Mars [Reprise]") before giving way to the soft acoustic strum of "Speak to Me," which gradually builds for ten minutes toward a bizarre conclusion. The latter may be a bit long-winded, but you probably won't care if you made it this far. The Cowboys would grow more accessible with subsequent releases, but strangely, they never sounded as natural and confident as they did on this over the top debut.

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