In the late 80's/early 90's, a whole new sound began to emanate from Houston, Texas: it was a rich, deep, full sound, shaped into melodies that were new and fresh compelling. It was all tied together with musicianship the likes of which we hadn't seen since Peter Gabriel left Genesis. It was a great time to be young, let me tell you.
Of course, I'm talking about the Sam Taylor/"Wilde Silas Tomkyn" recordings, which were chiefly propagated by two bands: King's X and the Galactic Cowboys. And while the two bands have a great deal in common - and by the way, if you ever get the chance to see them perform together, you should sell house and home to make sure you do - there are some significant differences that separate them.
Probably the biggest distinction is the overall feel of the music - the Cowboys have always been the more "fun" of the two, while King's X has tended to be more serious, less light-hearted. And while King's X has moved towards more and more introspection with each album, the Cowboys have done just the opposite, getting more and more loose with each outing.
The Horse That Bud Bought is premium Cowboys, a perfect blend of funked-up metal workmanship and nice-guy vocal harmonies. From the opening track, "Tilt-A-Whirl", (which is a mosh pit just waiting to happen), Horse progresses through the Cowboys' trademark blend of styles and tempos.
Over the course of their four albums, the Cowboys have consistently demonstrated just how melodic hard rock can be - they, like King's X and a few other bands, are a group that, for instance, my wife can listen to and enjoy without reservation, because they are musical enough to make her forget that she is listening to something heavy. Even on bone-crushing songs like "Media Slant" and (my personal favorite on the album) "I Can't Wait", the songwriting is so damn melodic that the heaviness of it all often goes unnoticed.
Of course, the Cowboys are still unequalled when it comes to the light-hearted, medium-tempo rock ballad, such as "Ribbon" and the absolutely brilliant "Evil Twin." They've practically created an entire sub-genre - camel-toed John Lennon drinking music - of which they are the absolute kings.
For all of its qualities, Horse is not their best album. (To my mind, their self-titled debut still takes that honor, with Machine Fish a slightly distant second.) While their musicianship has gotten tighter over the years, their vocal harmonies have crept ever more dissonant as time has passed: there are places on the disc where the harmonies sound more like gang yelling.
But less-than-perfect Cowboys is still some of the best music to be found anywhere, and The Horse That Bud Bought receives an unqualified recommendation.