Texas Platters Hall of Fame: Rank & File's Sundown
Punk drummer/singer Rhys Woodruff of Borzoi shares his love affair with the first cowpunk album
Reviewed by Rhys Woodruff, Fri., April 5, 2019
Rank & FileSundown (1982)
First time I heard Rank & File was at my grandparents' house. My first long-term relationship had just ended and I couldn't sleep. My bandmate Zach sent me the video for "The Conductor Wore Black," which I remember watching and thinking, "This is so bad. Why would he send me this?"
Unbelievably corny and polished, it sounded like a cheese-covered prairie. For some reason, though – and this happens with many bands I become incredibly fond of – I revisited it the next morning. Then I listened to the entire record. I was enamored.
Doing some research, I realized brothers Chip and Tony Kinman of punk band the Dils had formed Rank & File in Austin with Alejandro Escovedo. Contrasting other punk bands of the time who kept doing the same thing or quit after one album, the Kinmans took a huge risk abandoning their popular L.A. punk band to create a seemingly alienating and completely different sound. Funny because currently there's pounds of Californian flesh making its way into Austin every day now.
Back then it was for a good reason. We got Rank & File out of it. Now it seems it's just a bunch of philistines coming to live their simulacrum of reality.
Anyway, Sundown generously pays homage to country music with heavy-handed narratives including "Coyote," "Sundown," and "The Conductor Wore Black." Zach made an interesting point about the album: "It reminds me of exotica music – outsiders imagining a foreign sound. Except this happens to be punks making country."
Sundown subsumes a variety of songs encompassing an amalgam of rockabilly, country, and punk. It's the first cowpunk record. A terribly underappreciated album that deserves to be a staple of Texas music.
Borzoi’s 12XU Records full-length debut A Prayer for War is out now.