Anti-Westerns are an NYC, alternative country band that feature members of the arty, power-pop group Plates of Cake performing sardonic, overcast, whisky-wetted, gospel, pop-blues, and backroads folk. These rattly little numbers cover predictable territory from a by-gone era of American music with a sense of authenticity that feels shockingly well-earned.
Check out the stream of the Anti-Westerns’s debut below via Bandcamp, and keep scrolling to read what else we had to say about it.
The band’s ability to write catchy, chronically earwormy tunes carries over from their work in Plates of Cake to this new style with hardly a note lost in translation on their debut album, Glass Bottom Boat Ride.
The way their classic, pop sensibilities manifest through the material can be genuinely comical at times, like on “Good Morning,” where the band prays to a pot of hot, black coffee to help them persevere through an apocalyptic hangover, backed by a grand swell of strings and a whispy melody that almost feels borrowed from a Doris Day revue, but which characteristically stumbles into the icy cold coo of a churlish synth chord during the chorus.
Other parts of the album are more subtly amusing while managing to be entirely more concerting, such as the clean and acoustic, saucer-eyed, country confessional “Toothpaste and Gin.” On this track vocalist, Jonathan Byerley embodies an alcoholic, fumbling through life as he declares that all he needs to get by is clean teeth and enough hooch to maintain a steady buzz.
This statement is immediately followed by a proclamation which illustrates the depths of the narrator’s defeat and powerlessness to overcome his vices, singing, “I’m out on the edge somewhere, just a boy, I am the lamb that keeps Jesus employed.” A telling pronouncement of precocity of the likes that made Johnny Cash one of the most relatable musicians of the previous century.
Following the dower divulgence of the prior song, Glass Bottom Boat Ride turns on a dime to jin up a kickin’, rockabilly endearment about a lover who scarfs chicken with a ravenous gastronomical lust, bones and all. A possible metaphor for her slurping down something else. I won’t say what. Just give those greasy gears under that ten-gallon hide of yours a minute to turn, and it just might come to you.
Without missing a boot-clad beat, the Anti-Western’s follow this charmingly extended euphemism with the title track, where it is revealed that a glass-bottom boat ride actually serves as an unsettling metaphor for drowning yourself one bottle of beer at a time, set to a disarmingly cheery melody that calls to mind Roger Miller’s ambling owed to deprivation “King of the Road,” chased with a shot lonesome regret a la “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline.
Despite their name, Anti-Westerns have made one of the more authentic-sounding blends of country sounds and influences that I can think of in recent memory, and like the best the genre has to offer, it will keep you smiling while tears stream down your cheeks. Here’s to your making it back to shore from your next tour on the Glass Bottom Boat Ride.