The Horde is a folksy group of Shanghai expats who have been Johnny Appleseeding their songs about the city for a couple years now and are set to release their debut EP, Consider Yourselves Conquered (the typical signoff delivered by lead singer Ho-Tom the Conqueror at the conclusion of their sets.) It’s a concise daguerreotype of their sound that will be telegraphed straight to you on March 1 at 390.
The EP begins with a poetic turn from Ho-Tom the Conqueror (Tom Mangione in real life); with some help from George the Goliath (George Wyndham) on harmonica. The piece is an extension of the work on Ho-Tom’s blog, where he sporadically posts experiments with poetry, etymology, Chinese/English translation, and other literary bits and bobs. It’s an interesting read and this particular piece, “Shanghai Train”, is an apt introduction.
Mandolin player Franco the Fierce (Franco Rodriguez) shares songwriting and lead vocal duties with Ho-Tom. His compositions tend more toward bluegrass than his counterpart’s. The second track, “Once” is a good example. It’s a mysterious concoction, a glimpse of a foreign land in scattered images. The song features very capable work on melodica by Horde collaborator Nick Nasty (new Layabozi contributor Nick Muzyczka) which, along with the chords falling on the off beats, gives the tune a vaguely reggae feel.
Ho-Tom takes over on the next tune, “Shakespeare’s Coat”. He can pen a love song that would save Ophelia from her untimely doom and it shows on this gorgeous ballad in waltz time. The lyrics are opaque and up for interpretation but, if I were to take a guess, it’s about the wintry wooing of a woman and the process of writing in general. That’s just my take, though. Yours will certainly be just as valid when you hear the song. Nick Nasty contributes on melodica again and Franco shows out with a nice mandolin solo.
The penultimate track, “The North”, is another by Franco. It evokes images of North Korea. This one makes you want to clear out the barn and have a hoedown, despite the dark nature of the subject matter. George the Goliath absolutely slays a solo here, followed by Franco doing the same. Ryan Bearer of Skulls (Ryan Baird) helps out on bass and is definitely not out of place.
The final piece of the puzzle, Ho-Tom’s “IKEA Love Song”, really takes the cake (plus the tables and chairs.) It is a dialogue between a raffish vagabond and his glum love interest, voiced by Heidi the Harpie (or Heretic, or Woehrle, if you prefer.) The song has a pleasant and very addictive refrain that I have been trying to dislodge from my brain since I first heard it. Heidi’s vocals are terrific, and the song is capped by a jubilant sing-along.
That’s where the album ends, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the invaluable contribution made by Johnny 2.0 (Johnny Haru) on the cajon. In case you didn’t know, the cajon is a wood box that one sits on and plays as a percussion instrument. It has a very bassy sound that gives the tracks that rib-thumping sub-frequency they need. He makes some nice choices rhythm-wise, also.
Overall, Consider Yourselves Conquered is a great entry to Shanghai’s recorded canon, a paean from the heart that won’t take up too much of your time. If you’re like me, it will leave you yearning for more.
The Horde on Dabaoge 打包歌 [Tudou video]