Earlier this year, I briefly wrote about Backyard Tire Fire here. Unfortunately, I never pursued the album so no such follow up was done. So, it was to my surprise and excitement that Vagabounds and Hooligans showed up on my doorstep recently. I am not a sucker for this style but when done right it is hard to deny. Backyard Tire Fire take cues from Wilco and Drive-By Truckers and thoroughly impress with Vagabounds and Hooligans.
Right from the beginning Backyard Tire Fire set themselves ahead of their many peers. Not only does the band write incredible songs, there is an endearing experimental nature that they possess. That is hard to find in bands that occupy this musical space. The experimental pop of the title track and songs like “Apparitions” and “A Long Time” recall where Wilco made their turn away from alt-country on Summer Teeth. These songs are sparse and atmospheric…not necessarily qualities found in these realms often. Yet, the band always returns to their roots. The twangy pop of “Undecided” sounds like it could have come straight off Being There era Wilco. Album favorite “Green Eyed Soul” is strikingly reminiscent of the great Drive-By Truckers. The six minute “Corrine” is epic in its scope as it ends with a wailing guitar solo. “Get Wise” has a bit of R&B feel to it as the bluesy guitar bubbles below the surface. The song stomps to an end with a rowdy group sing-along. There are a few tracks like “The Wrong Hand” and “Downtime” that tread a little too much into self-indulgent Black Crowes-like territory but otherwise, Backyard Tire Fire are completely impressive on Vagabounds and Hooligans.
Backyard Tire Fire can no doubt rock out with the best of alt-country bands but they say so much more when they practice restraint in their song-writing. Vagabounds and Hooligans is a remarkable effort from the band and gives a glimpse of the promise offered for the future. With a few tweaks here and there, Backyard Tire Fire are certainly capable of even more.
RIYL: Wilco, Drive-By Truckers, Old 97’s