Rodeo Massacre – If You Can’t Smoke ‘Em Sell ‘Em [Review]

Label: Smoky Carrot Records

Release date: 31/01/11

Link: Rough Trade

Website: Official site

There’s a little bar on Upper Street signposted in red neon. Inside, bartenders dispense “hard liquor and good times”: bourbon served with an almightly mark-up, to the world-weary strains of Neil Young. Presumably customers slouch on the scarlet upholstered stools and confess their troubles, but I’m not quite sure that’s what happens in well-heeled Islington.

Rodeo Massacre’s debut record If You Can’t Smoke ‘Em Sell ‘Em is like Slim Jim’s Liquor Store: a blues record full of sexy, whiskey-soaked malaise, but without the authenticity a US-based band might have. Cooked up in Paris and transplanted to cold, rainy London, it just doesn’t make sense. However like Slim Jim’s and its rock n’ roll jukebox, I really do like this album.

If You Can’t Smoke ‘Em Sell ‘Em begins with a crack of thunder and lead singer Izzy Lindqwister’s powerful Grace Slick-esque vocals introducing ‘Desert Man’. Izzy is Swedish, but there’s no way you’d tell she had drawn breath from anywhere but the open road and the occasional dive bar. Riding on the tail of last year’s psychedelia explosion, ‘Zombies of Life’ muddles harmonica and a heavy rock sound, segueing mid-way through to a blustery, flute-playing intermission by early Adam and the Ants member Chris Constantinou.

A little of Constantinou’s flute playing also infiltrates ‘The End’, a foot-tappingly-good letter from a scorned lover to her feckless musician boyfriend. The soul of the American South is then evoked in ‘Heaven Or Hell’, in which Lindqwister urges a preacher to explain mortality.

There’s no real duff spot on If You Can’t Smoke ‘Em Sell ‘Em. Blues afficionados might be disappointed by the record’s parting shot, ‘Sneaky French Love’, a kitsch instrumental with trumpets that sounds like it could be played in a Mexican restaurant.

Rodeo Massacre are headlining at another American styled venue, the Blues Kitchen in Camden, and it may just be worth paying for an overpriced mint julep to see them.