The Hangmen - Loteria (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Hangmen

Loteria (2004)


Los Angeles veterans The Hangmen are aging musicians who wholeheartedly believe in the swagger and snarl of rock and roll, a belief that accounts for their charm but also accounts for their self-important posturing. Perhaps the curse of Los Angeles is to blame, but this stylized, formulaic, boring music is fronted with image, experience, and attitude instead of know-how, songwriting, and energy. This band is only skin deep, at first look they have potential, but past the look is not a lot of anything.

Weak arrangements and limp songwriting can be dressed up in fast tempos that will give songs more presence, a pop music trick that The Hangmen have simply ignored or failed to attempt, and it is the lack of tempo that is the real killer on The Hangmen's latest release "Loteria". Bang bang bang marches each of the thirteen songs exposing the lack of substance in this forty minute collection of middle-of-the-road music. This is not inspired, this is not clever, it's not much of anything, and that's unacceptable for a band who has logged in as many years as this band has. What are The Hangmen selling its audience? It can't be the music alone, for they would be out of a job, and it can't be any single musician in the band for Bryan Small (vocals, guitar), Todd Haney (drums), Angelique Congleton (bass, vocals), and Rane Raitsikka (guitar) could be any number of anonymous rock musicians whose playing sounds just as uninteresting as the next guy, or gal.

Lyrical content is comprised of meaningless statements such as, "I just wanna feel good", "I don't know what it is/But I see it coming my way/I don't know who she is/But I see her coming my way", and "Bored out West/There's nothing left/Had a dream/It made no sense" which make each song not really a song but merely a different chord progression with different words. Mix and match all you like, one will still be listening to the same record. Melodies are not the forte of this band, neither are lyrics, neither is the musicianship nor the arrangements of the music, so once again, what is it that The Hangmen sell to an audience?

Experience is the only characteristic that stands The Hangmen apart from most rock bands for the playing on this record is live, clean, and held up without the pro-tools make-over that is unfortunately so popular with the kids today. But there is nothing beyond simply playing proficiently in this band. There is no daring, no aggression, no passion. Songs come and go not with a whimper but also not with an explosion, they start, they stop, and that's it. Even though they don't sound like good rock, this band looks like good rock, and that, dear readers, is part of the problem with these musicians, for the music is what should be important, and if that isn't anything special, then what kind of product does a band have?

I suggest that The Hangmen go shower, spend less time and money on the clothes and work on the music. If modeling was the deal they should pose for magazines and not make records, for image will change and grow boring, but music, if the time and care are taken, will be ageless, and The Hangmen could benefit from shaving a few years off.