Agitated Atmosphere: Horse Marriage – Eisenhower Interstate

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Horse Marriage.

The open road changes a person. It’s where girls and boys become women and men, forged on gas station rations and long distances with only your thoughts and a radio to keep you company. In these precious, contemplative moments lives are reviewed; relived with rewinds and fast-forwards, alternate endings, and re-imagined beginnings. The road plays editor, leaving only the necessary snippets in the evolution from snot-faced child into untamed adulthood.

It’s from the weary road Horse Marriage were born anew. Anchored by duo Stewart Adams and Dave McPeters, the avant twosome shed the complexities of drone and ambient tinkering for the indie rock (before the term was co-opted as a style in favor of its once stronger, more immediate truth) of their formative years. The teenagers stowed within Adams and McPeters are fashioned into wizened men through the length of Eisenhower Interstate; road warriors fueled by a love of early 90s alterna-rock and van fumes.

The transformation also grabbed hold of the duo’s label, Roll Over Rover, which saw the departure of co-creative consultant Sean McCann (an Agitated Atmosphere favorite) as Adams and McPeters collectively move the label toward the 90s aesthetic of pure bred rock and roll, punk, and distorted hubris. Like the re-emerging decade, Eisenhower Interstate is steely in its summertime hooks and gritty riffs; Adams and McPeters (as joined by Ryan White or Walker Delbo on drums) tapping into the beauty of sunny road trips where growing up is part of the allure of America’s autobahns.

As clichéd the preceding metaphor, we all find comfort in our past. Horse Marriage supplies the magnifying glass by which to do it efficiently. The album’s opening three songs bleed into each other with exuberant glee. “M. Snerd” is the key in the ignition, full of the piss and vinegar of early Richmond Fontaine; “Sleep” the first rest stop as interpreted by The Replacements before the Red Bull of “Time Stays” lends its second wind. The album detours along dusty country reflection with “Hate the World” and “Hindenburg” before the triumphant glee of “Pee-Chee” and “Acme Tunnel” greet the final destination.

Listen to “Pee-Chee”:

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Eisenhower Interstate is a million trips down memory lane but Horse Marriage dodge nostalgia in favor of celebrating adulthood with the same reckless abandon with which teenage years are absorbed. Not having a copy in your car as the heat settles in and the windows remain open is to ignore everything wholesome and pure that still exists within each of us. Leave the career at the workplace; your time is for living life with Horse Marriage providing the soundtrack.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. AB
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Nice write-up of a great record, easily one of my 2011 favorites. The first LP is a winner, too.

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