Between Two Horse Pikes – Cupcakes & Taffy – EP Review
Well here’s something I can certainly get behind music-wise…and that is…hmm…quite the band name, ain’t it? I will fully admit, the songs & the sound make a whole lot of sense to me…as for the name of this band, I don’t even have a theory on that…it’s like they chose four words at complete random. I am not here to judge whatever the heck y’all wanna call yourselves as bands or artists…I’ll comment on that stuff all day long, sure – but at the end of the day, make no mistake, it’s only ever the music that matters to me. Everything else is inconsequential ultimately…amusing in situations like these where I can’t help but find myself lodged right into a real head-scratcher in terms of what makes sense to me and what the heck doesn’t…but as far as what I can HEAR goes…I’ve been loving every second of this new record. The music from Between Two Horse Pikes feels like it was damn near created just for me to listen to…like if I had filled out a wish-list of all the things I’d want to hear thrown together somehow, blended it up, then poured it through my speakers over ice…I mean…it would sound EXACTLY like Cupcakes & Taffy, I swear.
For real – check out “Touché ,Pussycat!” and you’ll know precisely what I mean. It’s strange, it’s bold, it’s beautiful…a crossover combination between Progressive, Psychedelic, and Alternative sound that’s got JUICE in its veins and a willingness to be different than the rest, clearly. Closest comparison I feel like I could give ya from the independent scene would be something like Sky As Skin, but with a slightly more accessible vibe goin’ on with Between Two Horse Pikes that gives it a chance of being listened to – at least at points along the way…this track might be more of the exception in that regard than the rule when considering the full set-list. Like…there are legitimate cat noises & meows scattered throughout this entire first cut – when was the last time you heard THAT in the ol’ mainstream y’all? Never? You get the point – this ain’t your average record, nor is this your typical first song by any stretch of the imagination either. I’ve even got the lyrics right in front of me and they don’t help me figure out this, or any of these tunes, more than simply listening to’em raw & unfiltered without’em would…so truthfully, I’ve been much more partial to the latter. Sometimes, and especially in cases like these here, where things are…hmmm…very DIFFERENT than the music you likely normally listen to, it can be best to just let the experience come right atcha head-on – and “Touché ,Pussycat!” has no issues with doing exactly that. There’s so much to freakin’ love here though…YES it’s weird, YES it’s strange, YES it is NOT normal – but LISTEN to the genius you’ll find in the smoothness of the verses and how those work, or how the guitars fire up immaculately as “Touché ,Pussycat!” heads into the thick of its main hooks and chorus. Make no mistake y’all…just because someone’s doing something differently don’t mean it ain’t brilliant.
Then you’ve got something like “Red Light, Green Light,” which is more like a combination of the 80s gone even stranger, with that Alt-Prog bizarreness, and a lil’ of the Post-Punk thrown in for good measure too. Think of something like…like if the B-52s were putting out new tunes today, it might sound very much like this – but truly, even something like Frank Zappa himself ain’t out of the running. As it began, you can ever hear comparable guitar ideas in “Red Light, Green Light” that would be akin to something like you’d find in Bloc Party…which is A-OK with me too. Obviously, Between Two Horse Pikes is a relentless hybrid of ideas & styles of music, and a whole smorgasbord of sound you’d never be able to finish in just one sitting – everything I’ve heard on this record has had me coming back for multiple servings. The most deviant moment in the whole EP occurs right as the first verse opens up and the vocals come in…it’s nearly like they’re searching for the melody or what might work there, if only for a moment. It doesn’t take long at all for things to snap right into place – and beyond that, the recording of this track should give you a full-on music-boner, or at least get you half-chubbin’ with confidence – the use of the lefts & rights, the layers, the whispers, the effects…everything stacks up and stands out. It might not quite be “Touché ,Pussycat!” for me personally, but it really ain’t all that far behind – for as much of an oddball as Between Two Horse Pikes clearly aims to be, the quality is remarkably consistent.
“Max’s Love Letter” amps up the energy and puts Between Two Horse Pikes” into the Punk realm with a fired up performance that goes straight for the throat. I LOVE the breakdown in this track – honestly the first time I spun my way through it, I thought this track might only be a minute & fifteen in length…and to be fair, it’s still not a whole heck of a lot longer than that…you’ll get another generous thirty-seconds, but you’ll get what I mean once you reach that moment in “Max’s Love Letter” – chances are you’ll think this cut could be over around that point too I’m sure. The ol’ fake-out works wonders here – but so too does the comeback; I wasn’t done with “Max’s Love Letter” just yet, so it was rad to get a lil’ more of it. Smart call & answer design in the way the vocals play with the music…all-in-all, this cut’s a seriously HOT track that’ll burn the ol’ barn down & melt speakers with no apologies or a single fuck given – “Max’s Love Letter” has enough electric energy to power your humble village for the next winter to come, so no worries. Get yourself a copy of Cupcakes & Taffy and you’ll save on your heating bill, I guarantee it. If you happen to be seeing this song played LIVE somewhere, then bring some WATER because it is gonna get STEAMY in the pit when this track gets hauled out…”Max’s Love Letter” is an amped-up frenzy of wild Punk/Psychedelic sound, and an all-out riot to listen to. From the punishing beat & lead vocals that are screamed at ya, to the cleverness of the spoken-word vocals that are threaded slyly into the mix as well…trust me y’all – “Max’s Love Letter” is basically an ASSAULT on your senses, but like, in a good way. I always kind of have to chuckle at this cut when it comes back around in rotation…my instincts always tell me to turn it right the fuck on up even further, so obviously I must actually love being screamed at.
Then it’s time for LIGHTERS UP – you can feel the vibe, can’t you? “Birdbones And Feathers” is CLEARLY the proverbial ‘baby-maker’ of the catalog, know what I mean? Almost a light-Funk, R&B twist on this undeniably Alternative sound as “Birdbones And Feathers” begins…Cupcakes & Taffy as a whole is very obviously my jam, and music that’s been made for the restless & the A.D.D. crowd, which I’m proudly a part of. I like a whole lot of things when I listen to music, and Between Two Horse Pikes seems to have no problem at all trying to supply them all in one shot (and succeeding). Beyond the ever-morphing sound and identifiably strange vibes though – take a serious LISTEN to the execution in the production and performance though will ya? There’s zero doubt about the professionalism that exists both in front of & behind the studio boards in this project…it’s genuinely staggering by definition. Is that gonna make this go down smooth with the ol’ mainstream? Hellz no! The reality is, a good 95% of the people out there that would listen to Between Two Horse Pikes will have no idea what the fuck is going on and probably grab the closest counter or railing to hang onto something and steady themselves…but that’s not the crowd a band/project like this is looking to create stuff for anyhow. That same logic would tell ya the same vicious percentage of people wouldn’t understand what the hell Mike Patton is doing in anything he does either…so as far as I’m concerned, the ultra-creative keep great company. It’s fair to say that “Birdbones And Feathers” isn’t necessarily my favorite on this record too – but if you think I’m even remotely inclined to turn this off for some reason, trust me when I tell ya, you’re crazier than I am. The guitar solos that are on this record, though continually way too damn short for my liking, are pure fire – listening to Between Two Horse Pikes light this mother UP in the finale of this cut is 100% badass.
I tell ya folks…it sure is something to have completely unique ideas…it’s another thing to have serious chops as musicians…and it is straight-up otherworldly if you’re lucky enough to have BOTH of these things firing on all-cylinders like you’ll hear Between Two Horse Pikes have it all goin’ on throughout this lineup of songs. LISTEN to a track like “Oathbreaker” will ya? Kind of like…hmmm…like Black Sabbath meets Minus The Bear…add in something a bit more willingly abrasive like Built To Spill or Superchunk, a pinch of something undeniably innovative like Thomas Dolby, the crunch of something like you’d find in King’s X, Bad Brains, or maybe even Fishbone…I’ll put it to you this way – I can tell just by listening that whomever is behind this music has an intense knowledge of just about every genre and style that quite likely rivals, or even surpasses my own. For me, it’s spots like right around the fifty-second mark of “Oathbreaker” where you can hear that Between Two Horse Pikes COULD EASILY go in a much more accessible direction if that was the intention – the skills are there, the knowledge of what makes a hook seriously connect is absolutely there, and clearly, even though these moments tend to be short deviations & departures from the rest of the sonic chaos that typically surrounds them – it’s those tiny fractions of these songs that should clue you into how much of this chaos is made completely by choice. Like I said, personally, I’m cool with it – this is the kind of stuff that speaks to me on a variety of levels and gets me excited about what music can BE – but I’m equally realistic in recognizing it sure as hell ain’t gonna be for everyone. Huh? What’s that? “You got alotta nerve,” you say, Between Two Horse Pikes? You’re goddamn right I do! I call things like I hear’em. And honestly, if anyone else out there is listening besides me, then fucking BONUS…as to whether or not it makes a difference in my day if they do, that’s a whole other story and one I wouldn’t particularly care to read. I know what I like, and this record is basically built on a steady foundation of supplying that. It is my sincere HOPE that other people ‘get’ it.
“German Chocolate Kake” is…hmmm…TASTY y’all, let’s start with that. Track after track, I’ve been nothing but impressed by the fact that you’d practically NEVER find songs like the ones you’ll hear on Cupcakes & Taffy outside of Cupcakes & Taffy, you feelin’ me? This record is like an island unto itself, completely self-contained, and an experience genuinely unlike any other. These dudes (or maybe dude…I kind of suspect this is all created by one person, but I actually have no clue how many people are in Between Two Horse Pikes truthfully, and reading up on the social media pages ain’t gonna tell you any more information than this sentence in brackets provides – sorry) should be absolutely freakin’ STOKED about what they’ve accomplished with their band, with their songs, with their entire vibe & sound and how much of a DIFFERENCE they’ve established in what they create from literally anything else that’s out there. You might feel like you get a flash of possible or potential comparison every so often…but let’s be real here…if we’re talkin’ tunes from start to finish, this is a band that is completely blazing its own trail, proudly. I mean that last part more than you know – the sheer confidence these guys play with, while being THAT different than the vast majority of anything else you’re gonna hear this year…is significantly AWESOME. It’s the kind of musicianship that tells your ears they know these tunes inside & out…that for as random as things may appear in the mirror, the vision is much closer than it all appears…Between Two Horse Pikes knows precisely what it’s doing. This is about as on the fringe as something like King Missile was back in my day…it’s professionalized weirdness and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT. I ain’t saying ANY of this makes any more sense to me as it would to you…I’m just tellin’ ya I love it, full-stop. Not everything we’re ever gonna hear is going to make complete & total sense to our ears – and to be entirely fair to Between Two Horse Pikes, that’s usually the result of being way ahead of your time.
This record even has some Alternative/Ambient/IDM/EDM for ya at the end too eh? Because like, hey – why NOT at this point? “The Whipping Boy” might even be one of my favorites from this record…it’s possible for sure – I feel like I’ve got seven favorites on Cupcakes & Taffy and yes, there happens to be seven songs on it…so I suppose it’s a candidate as much as any other. But that SHOULD be enticing to you all, yes? I know the reality of the uphill battle that Between Two Horse Pikes is heading into…getting people to latch onto something like this is a LOFTY goal without question…but it’s not entirely impossible to achieve a loyal fan-base of kickass people that ARE brave enough to listen and give it all their time. As for the masses…I say good night & good luck to you Between Two Horse Pikes…that part ain’t gonna be easy – but I also highly suspect any hand involved in making this record would already know that, 100%. Justified to be what I think is the longest cut on the EP? Not really, no…but I’m not entirely opposed to it. It’s thinner as an idea in comparison to just about every other cut on this record, but that’s not really something I think Between Two Horse Pikes really needs to worry about or concern itself with…if people have made it this far, they’ll have no problem sticking it out to the end & then lining back up for another serving just like I did. For a seven track record, EP, or whatever you wanna call it – smattering of sonic BRILLIANCE as I personally choose to define it – you gotta hand it to Between Two Horse Pikes for not even once coming anywhere close to giving you something that sounded like the track you just heard only moments before…everything about this set of songs is different, even within its own very set-list. So if you ARE a fan of the bizarre as you should be…there’s every reason to listen to Cupcakes & Taffy – this is one tasty treat for your ears, a satisfying meal for your mind’s eye, and music ya just ain’t gonna come by every single day in this valley of malls that we’ve created here on earth. Full salute! I felt like the more melodic & atmospherically-inclined ending in “The Whipping Boy” put the last dollop of icing on the cake to what’s been a wildly adventurous & inspired experience…this is uniqueness incarnate from a name in music you don’t wanna underestimate.
Cupcakes & Taffy officially comes out right around the corner on June 24th this year – until then, attempt to figure out what you can about Between Two Horse Pikes from the links below!
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