R. Borlax

Horse Band / HORSE the Band

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R. Borlax Review

by Johnny Loftus

"I Love the Power Glove. It's so bad." Thus spoke the youthful nemesis in the 1988 kid vid fantasy The Wizard, which found young Fred Savage discovering his Tommy-like brother's latent ability as an arcade whiz. Of course, The Wizard was celluloid viral marketing for Mattel/Nintendo's U.S. launch of the Power Glove, a ridiculous robot hand meant to increase one's gaming skills. These facts haven't stopped Horse the Band from using the film's bizarre blend of hysterical trendspotting, clunky technology, and cringe-worthy screenwriting as inspiration for R. Borlax, its frenzied full-length opus for Pluto. Occupying a storage bin marked "Nintendocore" (their characterization) -- which sits on a shelf between screamo and hardcore -- the boys in Horse slam screams, synths, guitars, and rhythm into an excitebike of disjointed yet surprisingly accessible musical madness. It's Erik Engstrom's keyboard that keeps the heads ringin'. Album highlight "Cutsman" pastes Nathan Winneke's berserk yelping onto an anthemic bed of synths that pushes the track toward power metal. Meanwhile, "In the Wake of the Bunt" sort of suggests post-hardcore, with its anguished vocals and angular guitar throttling. But what about that a cappella gang-yell breakdown, or the keyboard trills that seem wholly lifted from Hot Dog...The Movie!'s penultimate ski showdown? It's this kind of "why not?" mashup adventurism that makes R. Borlax enjoyable. It's not successful in a genre-specific sense -- good ideas from all over the map too often dissipate in a hail of squelch before they're fully realized. But who cares? There's already too much seriousness in the various, interchangeable threads of the noise and hardcore fallout. If Horse the Band wants to sound like Guy Picciotto playing chopped-up metal covers of Electric Light Orchestra, well, let's endorse it and look forward to their next trick.

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