The Outskirts of Your Heart - Pat Todd & The Rank Outsiders (Hound Gawd! Records)
You might think of it as just another European label re-issuing an American artist’s old work on vinyl - a smart commercial move because nobody in Europe buys albums on CD - if they can help it.But you should consider Hound Dawg Records' engineering the re-appearance of the first record for Pat Todd’s post-Lazy Cowgirls outfit as a public service. Here’s why:
Whatever the format, “The Outskirts of Your Heart” is too good to wallow as second-hand fodder in the shadowy depths of eBay and Discogs. Originally a double CD when it landed in 2006, “Outskirts…” was an ambitious work, issued on Pat Todd’s own label. Here was a double album of two parts (naturally enough) with rockier material on the first disc and the acoustic, more reflective stuff on the second. There’s a whopping 28 tracks to absorb across four sides of vinyl but rest assured, it’s not a chore.
The Lazy Cowgirls were an ornery beast, a punk rock powerhouse operating out of L.A. in the ‘80s and ‘90s that set the benchmark for like-minded SoCal bands like Supersuckers and the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs. After bouncing around on worthy labels like Bomp and Sympathy For The Record Industry, Todd pulled the pin on the Cowgirls in 2005 and set about building a new band that mixed high-energy raw power with country, roots and Americana (whatever that is.)
I’ve been back-tracking through the four albums by The Rank Outsiders and there aren’t many bands that can match their vibe of high-energy-bar-band-gets-down-and-rootsy, while managing to sound so soulful. The killer app is Pat himself, whose character-laden, heart-on-sleeve vocal - and highly evocative lyrics - make the band what it is. For a record of similar stark contrasts, check out Husker Du’s “Candy Apple Gray”.
He’s an unlikely looking rock star, Pat Todd, which is probably why no label ever made him one. He looks like Danny DeVito with height, gazing thoughtfully from the photo on the inner sleeve as he leans on a bollard in a skanky tunnel, surrounded by band members feigning looks ranging from studied disinterest to “Fuck you, brother”.
Everyman coolness apart, there’s so much to like about this record. It works on many levels with its tales of love and loss. There’s the rocking but wistful “Is My Last Chance Gone” where Ramonic downstrokes meet beefy licks and a regretful lyric. “Just Another Stupid Guy” is big, beefy and bouncy Dolls rocker and a sturdy album opener. There are a few in the same vein.
Then there are the quieter moments. “Thanks For The Misery” is as stark as they come (just Todd and a guitar) and a reminder that a good song is the base material from which all good things come. Throw in “My Next Time On The Highway” if you’re into acoustic guitars played with intensity.
A few of you might get indignant to hear mandolin, banjo and lap steel on what you thought was a “rock” album. They all come into play on the second disc, the second side of which contains some of the album’s mellowest moments. Pat Todd has a love for Hank and Waylon (it must come from growing up in the Midwest) that’s as obvious as his penchant for the Stones. So it all makes sense.
And apparently “Holdin’ Onto Trouble’s Hand”, the comparatively brief album that followed (the one I’m missing) was even better…guess you know what will happen next.