Music News

The Mansfields

Despite the ease with which down-and-out classic country can be blended with down-and-out punk rock -- think X and Social Distortion -- there are relatively few acts that work the sliver where the two styles overlap. Such oversights aren't lost on Colorado Springs's Mansfields, however, as the band does its best to help fill the punkabilly vacuum with its revved-up style.

Rockabilly purists may turn up their noses at the Mansfields' decidedly non-traditional take on rock's roots, while the skate-punk crowd may lament the fact that the band's guitars don't blaze with enough abandon. For the more general listener, however, the Mansfields play perfectly the part of the archetypal outlaw rockers. From jangly numbers that are equal parts menacing punk and honky-tonk hayseed ("My Life Is One Big Fucking Mess") to tunes filled with the desperate drone of over-amplified guitars ("It's All Over Now"), the Mansfields try different genres on for size without ever letting down their bad-boy masks.

Here the Ramones-style comedy that marked the band's earlier work is replaced by the hardened subject matter of have-not living and teenage-delinquent depression. It's a move that makes it much easier to take the band seriously. There are times when the band's influences are all too obvious, however. While singer Dave Mansfield's drawling delivery owes more to Hank Williams Sr. than to Mike Ness, the group begs Social Distortion comparisons in its lyrics (the album is peppered with such SD phrases as "born to lose" and "story of my life"), as well as in Doug Mansfield's guitar solos. The imitation on Kill Your Radio may be less blatant than it was in the act's Ramones/ Screeching Weasel-wannabe days, but it's still imitation in the end.

While many of the Mansfields' songs are little more than recast rock-and-roll standards delivered with a touch of twang, they're still a lot smarter than most of the shlock passed off as punk these days. More a hint of the trio's potential than a fully grown album, Kill Your Radio shows that once the Mansfields give up chasing their heroes, they just might blossom into a sharp outfit of their own.

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Matt Schild