Colonel Rhodes - This Is Public (Cover Artwork)

Colonel Rhodes

This Is Public (2005)

The Record Machine

Every year in recent memory has gleaned one really great alt-country record that rises above the rest of their peers in terms of complexity and depth. 2003 saw Lucero's third full-length That Much Further West woo critics all over the board (myself included). 2004 saw the release of a record that went unfortunately under the radar; The Weight's sophomore effort Ten Mile Grace was debatably better than the Lucero album, but got half the publicity. Colonel Rhodes looks like a very likely candidate to carry the "I feel like a fucking corndog dork listening to this, but it's so damn good!" torch in 2005.

This is the band's first release, but you wouldn't guess that from the caliber of songwriting and performance. Already playing like a seasoned band, Colonel Rhodes pound out the heartfelt ditties with the best of ‘em. Sometimes this release can just leave me in awe. "In The Movies" is beautiful enough to inspire awe in any punk who has an open mind. The haunting chorus of "maybe I'm just lonely" builds into an emotionally-charged finale for the song before it drifts out with classically trained (ooh-la-la) vocalist Elizabeth humming over sparse drum work.

Another fantastic number is the record's culmination point, "Saint Paul." From the opening chords you can tell that it's gonna be a fantastic song. They make me picture sitting on a hill with your friends in Summer while the sun is setting. It's the most upbeat number on the five-song release, more reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo. It's the most energetic song displayed here, which most punk fans would consider a plus. The big chorus is a lot of fun to sing along to, and the drums can be fairly unique. Some pretty guitar work segues into a solo of sorts before fading into the distance, ending the CD and leaving me thinking, "goddamn, I want more."

I only have a couple gripes with this record. The first is a matter of personal taste, but I think most discerning punk/hardcore fans can agree; where's the fucking lyric sheet? Secondly and more importantly, the record can be sort of inconsistent. It's as all-over-the-map as you can be while still playing alt-country. "Confess" doesn't move me very much at all, and recalls me of something you may hear on CMT. "Setting Sun" is a good slow/fast song that takes a couple listens to get into, but its status never rises above "good." I feel that the main problem on these two songs specifically is that Colonel Rhodes failed to step up their songwriting to their full potential.

Having limited knowledge of any country or alt-country bands, the best reference point I can come up with is a less gimmicky Whiskey & Co. with better song structure and a fuller sound. If that even means anything to you, it hardly does this band justice. All I can say is you may be missing out on one of 2005's best EPs. Their songwriting can only improve from here, and I can't wait to see what this band has in store for us in the future!