Hogan’s Goat – Hogan’s Goat
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to attend many club shows, at several of which I’ve been afforded the opportunity to mingle with my heroes. Part of the fun inherent to that experience is watching how other fans and the musicians themselves handle those interactions, because the idea of making small talk with someone I don’t know literally terrifies me. For me, it’s usually enough to be able to say a quick “thanks” and throw in a handshake, or maybe even buy them a beer, but I’m always amazed at how easy it appears for some people to march right up to someone they don’t know and chat them up for minutes at a time.
Without a doubt, the most interesting fan/musician interaction to witness is the infamous and now tired “demo tape hand-off”. Maybe you’ve seen it! Some good-natured band member will be standing around with a group of fans, usually enjoying a post-gig smoke and/or beer, when some guy will walk up with a USB drive, or maybe a CD-R adorned with sloppy Sharpie markings, and hijack the situation by thrusting it in front of the band member. The group of fans will probably fall quiet as they turn to look at “check-out-my-band” guy, who will then proceed to pitch his project to the band member with the unrealistic hope that they’ll actually listen to it and maybe even pass it along to the powers-that-be. That sort of interaction—with the artist that has “made it” unwittingly serving as some sort of gatekeeper—speaks to the barrier that has existed between the would-be musician and a fan base of their own since the inception of music as a business, but in lockstep with the ever-changing digital landscape that now defines whatever is left of that model, probably happens less and less as fledgling musicians are able to take to the internet and cast a wider net.
Now, I don’t say all of this to imply that the self-produced debut from Nashville-based rockers Hogan’s Goat comes off sounding like some sort of Sharpie-scrawled demo—it’s actually the complete opposite—but being that the band is presently unsigned, a demo is essentially what this is. And instead of being thrust in front of me in physical form (maybe because I’m not a rock star?), it was attached to a breathlessly worded email (with the obligatory “For fans of” list serving as bait) imploring me to check these guys out if I knew what was good for me. I’m still getting used to the idea that I have some part—albeit an infinitesimally small one but a part all the same—in helping a new band get noticed by a label. In the case of Hogan’s Goat, I’m happy to do my part.
Much like your Grandpa’s favorite saying, the term “Hogan’s Goat” begs for a story of origin. Legend has it that the term originated sometime around 1855 in Scotland when a farmer by the name of Hoek Hogan (which sounds like the shirt-ripping pro wrestler when you say it out loud) raised a goat so unruly and foul smelling that the phrase “Hogan’s Goat” became a descriptor for something that is hopelessly screwed up—the old-world version of FUBAR, I suppose.
Musically, Hogan’s Goat is firmly rooted at the good-time end of the rock & roll spectrum which, at times, has them veering uncomfortably close to being too clichéd for my tastes, but they more than make up for it with generally solid song craft. Album opener “Rat Boy” sets the tone with a Southern-rock-meets-Alt 90’s vibe before spacing out into the first of the album’s several stoner-prog flirtations. Lead single (which always seems to be the 3rd track on any album!) “Shit Kicker” shows the band’s moodier side with an excellent guitar build-up, and a vocal progression that quickly ascends into an urgent Clutch-esque lyrical delivery, minus Neil Fallon’s unmatched ability to imbue silly lyrics with a sense of irony.
The album’s mid-point is punctuated by two solid tracks, especially in terms of demonstrating the band’s potential, with “If I’m Dead”—which features some excellent lead guitar work and “John Doe” which brings an urgent Rage Against the Machine vibe to the proceedings, even if RATM would have frowned on the generous usage of samples.
As the album winds down, it does so with a trio of songs that further hammers home potential that I suspect will be more fully realized as Hogan’s Goat venture forward, starting with “Jack and Jill”—the back third of which features the sort of slithering twin-guitar riffage upon which these guys could and should (if they know what’s good for them) build a career—before segueing into “Elkhorn Mountain” which is one of the album’s strongest tracks on account of its devastating chorus riff. The album closes with “Drinkin’ with the Priest” which is probably the most ambitious track on the album in terms of exploring sonics well above and beyond that which already peppers modern rock radio which, honestly, appears to be band’s aim. And why not? They certainly have the talent.
That Hogan’s Goat could self-produce and release an album this polished and fully-realized at this stage in their career—and without the support of even a small indie label—is certainly impressive. I’d love to see them tap further into their progressive proclivities on future releases, but if there is any justice left in this cruel world, this release will serve as a notable opening salvo for a band who could very well enjoy a long and fruitful career should the talent and determination they demonstrate here continue to bloom forth along the trajectory they’ve laid out with this release.