The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – . . . And the Horse You Rode In On

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

In the by-now-characteristically-lengthy liner notes to this album, the band thanks their van, dubbed Chrissie Gonzalez (not sure why the van has to be Latina, but whatever). I can only assume, then, that it was Chrissie who blew a tire and rolled several times, coming to rest upside down, on an Indiana interstate in late September 2009, as the band was headed to Cincinnati. Three of the six band members sustained minor injuries; the other three were hospitalized with injuries that included a broken pelvis and spinal fractures, with one being airlifted to a hospital in Illinois. All survived, though the accident effectively ended the band, a combination of the total loss of their instruments, the recovery time from the physical injuries, and the understandable fear of touring in a van again. Einhorn eventually started the project Fashion Brigade, whose debut album in 2019 featured Exene Cervenka (X, the Knitters).

What I Think of This Album

. . . And the Horse You Rode In On is an extremely frustrating album. Overall, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir sound more confident and sophisticated than ever. But they make poor choice after poor choice on this album, resulting in a document of bewildering self-sabotage.

The worst decision is the inexplicable turn towards profanity and crassness. Elia Einhorn’s reliance on explicit language and unsavory images only hurts his work, which is normally characterized by detail, sensitivity, and care. The result is that the vulgarity comes across as inarticulate and lazy; words that might normally shock instead present as bland and prosaic. 

Making it that much worse is that Einhorn is capable of expertly mixing the carnal in with the romantic, as displayed on “One Night Stand.” Indeed, he even adopts a seductive baritone for the first verse and drops lines like “You say you don’t believe in love / Well, listen, you don’t have to  / For what I’ve got in mind for you and me.” He is amply backed by rapidly strummed guitars and a bassline that bounces like a superball in one of those Home Depot paint can shakers. 

The title track is a lot of fun, with the band gleefully careening through the song. In a similar vein, they repurpose “Tear Down the Opera House” from their debut, keeping the energy but cleaning up the arrangement. And “Well I Wouldn’t” is a nice acoustic number with little or nothing to complain about.

I believe it is Ellen O’Hara who sings “Sixteen,” and it is the highlight of the album, with some stunning string work (including cello by, I think, Mark Yoshizumi), a rubbery bass, and a reverbed guitar that comes close to Saturday Looks Good to Me-levels of throwback songwriting. Unfortunately, the jarring phrase “I thought I had the world by the balls” needlessly mars this song’s tremendous beauty. 

“Sixteen” is paired with “Praying Is a Heartache,” sung by guitarist Mary Ralph, which you could argue is the more beautiful song. It could easily fit on an Essex Green album, with its pastoral arrangement that resembles a traditional (but anachronistic) English ballad or some blasphemous canticle.  

The decision to give the mic to someone other than Einhorn again pays dividends on the charming “Save Your Breath,” which Ethan Adelsman delivers in an everyman manner that contrasts nicely with Einhorn’s more overwrought style and benefits from the mix of keyboards and strings.

Otherwise, the album consists of Einhorn shooting himself in the foot. “I Pretend She’s You” is fantastic, with a tremendous string part augmenting an energetic guitar jangle, clever lyrics like “I know you’ve got a boyfriend / Plays in a band even you’ve never heard of” and “Now me, I’m tearing up at ‘40s love songs / At Spector I lose it completely,” and a horn part that could bring about world peace. And yet. And yet. The presence of cheap lyrics like “If I wasn’t so fucked up” and “she kicked the shit out of my heart” and “I’m a fucking mess” and “I sound like such a sad bastard” diminish this song to a tragic degree, both because they are so inartful and also because of their unrelenting self-pity.

Similarly, Elia convincingly sings of trying and failing to get over someone by sleeping around in “Something’s Happening,” which boasts a unbeatable melody and expert arrangement, but is hobbled by the repeated lyric “my life is so fucked up.” 

“Libertyville or Somewhere” seems like an excuse for a clunky joke (“We promised we’d never never cheat / But then you jumped between the sheets / With some aging baggage handler / From Libertyville or somewhere”) and offers the album’s second explicit reference to an STD. “Castles of Wales” adopts a C86 sound that I guess is appropriate to the hyper-anglophilia of the lyrics, but it all seems very contrived (though I guess I like the mandolin). “Ogilvie Station” is oddly morose and uninspired filler, needlessly including the line “then you open your legs.”

All of these flaws are presaged immediately ,as  the band falters by opening the album with a short novelty ditty sung by a child. Memo to all artists:  do not slot annoying filler in as the lead track to your albums, no matter who you might owe a favor to. You’re welcome. The next song – “Stop!” – is little better; it is a misguided effort that sounds like a bad Morrissey parody. Einhorn’s voice breaks in an over-dramatic manner that is as manufactured as it is off-putting. The invocation “I hope you get syphilis and die” comes across as far too vitriolic and unimaginative for this group, and the lyric “Thoughts of him on top / And then you on top” is at best distracting.

The band’s lineup had changed considerably by this album, though former members like O’Hara, Matt Kerstein, and Sam Koentopp all contributed in unspecified ways. Also lending a hand was John Langford (the Mekons), Ezra Furman, and, uh . . . Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd., Killing Joke, and Pigface, as well as drumming work for NIN and Ministry).

The aforementioned gargantuan thank you list this time includes Canasta, the Chamber Strings, Elizabeth Elmore (Sarge), Kelly Hogan (who has worked with Neko Case), Tilly and the Wall, the Sea and the Cake, Davey Havok of AFI, artist Harvey Pekar (for the second straight album), the staff of a local Taco Bell, and Hillel Frankel (an attorney I once hired to register copyrights and music publishing).

The Chicago references return for this album, and include the Music Box, Ogilvie Station, and suburban Libertyville.

The Best Thing About This Album

The tandem of “Sixteen Is Too Young” and “Praying Is a Heartache.”

Release Date

September, 2009

The Cover Art

Meh. It would have been better without the statue, but even so, the grey is oppressive and drab. Good use of font and font-related composition.

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