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Horse & Rider represents a long legacy of alternative rock and punk rock from this area. Mat Milinkovich (drums) and Matt Osterlund (guitar) have been hitting the stage since before half the Duluth scene was old enough to drink. The two are known for their work with Cars & Trucks, but they’ve done some other work including Farewell Tour from back in the day, which is the band that led to Horse & Rider. The band reunited, bringing back bassist C.J. Keller, and brought in a new member, Andy Pletcher (guitar), who is known for his work with Phillip of Nazareth.
It’s established that the band has been doing their thing in various projects for awhile. While impressive, I’m not surprised that this 11 track album was recorded in around 12 hours. With that said, don’t expect a lot of fancy studio tricks like clever harmonies, over done panning of instruments, techno breakdowns or something like that. This album is pretty punk and raw. There’s no need to make things more than what they are with this album and the band certainly doesn’t seem to bother. The sound is more punk than pop and resembles a band like the Descendents, except I think some of the guitar work is a cut above a lot of what they do.
The album opens with a melodic slower tempo song, “Last Straw.” It’s rather dramatic and leans more towards alternative rock over punk. “I’m wasted all the time,” goes part of some of the few lyrics in the song. From there things find a punk groove with tracks like “The Good Fight.” The track, “Asshole Dads,” has a feel a little like The Hold Steady with the guitar parts backing off a bit to make way for somewhat conversational vocals.
The rest of the album stays punk with a little bit of pop. There’s definite hooks and structure that drive the songs with tracks like, “Running in Circles,” but it’s the tight musicianship that hits a lot of these songs home.
The song, “So Bold,” brings parts of melodic intensity that blends with the punk element that the band has. The back and forth between the two elements is backdropped by a steady and quick beat.
I mentioned, the band has been playing music for quite awhile and it’s not surprising to see this straight up album that isn’t messing around come from these guys. There’s plenty of nice guitar riffage going on held down by Milinkovich’s drums. While the album is raw, this isn’t to be mistaken for sloppy. The vocals credited to Osterlund and Milinkovich are what one would expect from a punk album because they’re a little gritty. In the end they let the rock speak for itself with this one.