It's been a few years since singer and guitarist David Stevenson released a record with his bizarro rock outfit, the Ottomen. However, the band hasn't matured at all in that time: The trio is still obsessed with scary monsters, weirdo nightmares and the occasional heartbreak. Most of these fourteen songs lope along with a spry, punky twang that owes no small debt to the off-the-cuff charm of the Dead Milkmen. Stevenson's droll baritone voice is the center of the Ottomen Universe, like Calvin Johnson on Adderall or Stephin Merritt without the affectations. His voice can be magnetic and engaging, like on the changeling horror-story "Altered Beast," though too often his drawn-out atonality on songs such as "Blackheart the Girl" can burrow like an earwig.
Opener "Procrastination Nation" spins off a litany of barbs against our country's burger-eating, beer-swilling, TV-watching lifestyle. It's a catchy, fun tune even if the complaints aren't especially original or pointed. And that's the secret to Horses Don't Have Lungs: Many of these songs sound like three-chord punk 45s slowed down to 33 1/3, and almost all of them are focused on sci-fi, natural disasters and pop-culture ephemera. The lyrics are always silly and sometimes funny, if not necessarily witty, but the Ottomen are intentionally far removed from thinking-man's rock & roll. To wit: the crunchy "Above the Law," in which Stevenson imagines himself as a city-smashing 100-foot creature and, naturally, references Steven Seagal (who starred in the famed Above the Law action-adventure). That these lyrics could have been pulled from a seventh-grader's Trapper Keeper is not beside the point — it's precisely the point of the Ottomen's reason for being.
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