One Trick Lizard
Everything about Brent Amaker & The Rodeo is highly stylized. Their look– black with black Stetsons– recalls Man In Black-era Johnny Cash and their live shows are raucous affairs filled with burlesque dancers. Their latest album, Year Of The Dragon, is also ultra-stylized. If you don’t buy into their schtick 100%, it is nearly impossible to listen to this record. It seems that Brent Amaker couldn’t care less; he’s doing his thing, and gosh darnit, you’re either along for the ride or you can get off the choo-choo train, darlin’. Yeehaw!
Every song is anchored by Amaker’s tongue-in-cheek baritone delivery and Bryan Crawford’s solid backbeat. Filling out these elements are traditional instruments such as acoustic guitars and bass. Let’s not forget that irony is the main event here, so Amaker adds analog synths and theremins to the mix as well. It all adds up to a giant wink and nod. We get it cowboy, you are the smartest guy in the room. Yes, every song is perfectly crafted and well-recorded, however, every song on Year of the Dragon sounds, basically, the same. Ear fatigue sets in pretty quickly– right around the song number two.
There are songs about tequila, suitcases and putting on boots, among typical banal fare. Every lyric is, of course, dripping in irony, be it a line about being a captain going down with his ship to being a hustler who will teach a woman good manners. There isn’t one song on Year of the Dragon that engages the listener on any level deeper than a smirk. Basically, it’s tough to make it through this record unless you are in on Brent Amaker’s joke.