There's an interesting fight between the cover art to The Builders & the Butchers' Western Medicine and the music itself. The painting—an outrageous instant masterpiece by Lukas Ketner that slices H.P Lovecraft into evil fairy tales and satanic hellfire in a Robert Williams-by-way-of-Todd-Schorr canvas which, if there's any justice on Earth, will have metalheads, progsters, and various other nicely warped minds clamoring for posters of it—is an eerie thing of twisted high-gloss beauty while the music beneath is, to cop from Paste Magazine, "raw and unschooled…throwing off a maniacally ecclesiastical sort of energy…covered by death-fixated lyrics". Too true, and the lads find themselves grounded in the disturbing works of Cormac McCarthy, so the reason for that brutish mania is more easily understood.
After hearing the first few cuts, I'm minded of a punkily inspired Horslips or a homegrown (Alaskan / Oregonian) Pogues with a callous-knuckled sense of high drama, the dark Desert is on Fire something that would've made it to Dylan's Blood on the Tracks had Bob been drinking absinthe and crow's blood with Aleister Crowley. TB&TB are definitely soil-grown in folk music but the wide-open spaces of The Great Plains may well have put the zap on the five lads' heads, even if it had to catch them lurking in Portland to do so. Watching the World ratchets everything up with its delired banjo schizophrenically chittering amelodically away.
Lone Kent did something vaguely akin to Western Medicine in the obscure 1993 Granite & Sand release, another drama of cowboys descending to Hell, and Creedle concocted an art-noise masterpiece, equally unknown, in their Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars that's very little like this disc save in its brash in-your-faceness. But then there's the dangerous Ceceil, which commences as background music for, say, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, but grows and evolves until it's a churnin' cookin' Okies-on-acid monster. If you want to know TB&TB's secret, it's in this song. Listen to it first, and you'll understand the rest of the disc in very short order. If they can maintain what they have now while refining it into the art with a capital 'A' it's intended to be, these cranky fuckers are going places.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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