The fringed marvel is back with a theatrical, expansive and subversive masterpiece that reminds us just why he is the undisputed king of queer country
Yeehaw, motherfuckers! Grab your stetson and pink cowboy boots, mask up and come on down to the Rodeo! The fringed marvel is back with his second album Bronco, a theatrical, expansive subversive masterpiece that reminds us just why Orville Peck is the undisputed king of queer country.
In a contrast to debut album Pomy, Bronco opens with the madness of sadness, despondent depression – Peck straight in with a full-bodied reverie of “Buddy we got major blues”. Set the tone Orville, break our hearts. This theme of depression is continued in The Curse Of The Blackened Eye, the sun rising on the inevitable sadness – an acknowledgement that yeah, sometimes we get sad and that’s okay. Sun up on an inevitable mood drop – we are promised it all will be okay in the end. Like the song itself, there’s a quiet hope in the midst of the morose, a strength not angry but persevering. The silence of recovery, the knowledge that bad times still happen and they’ll pass, much as the wind does. Sage advice indeed.
This is a message that continues across the whole album. Lafayette, a sigh to lost queer love, flirts with racing orchestral beats. It’s expansive, yet hopeful. And just when you’re into its groov, there’s Some Velvet Morning style time changes, horse hooves on a guitar-spattered sunset, galloping further forward.
C’mon Baby Cry and Kalahari Down bring the acceptance of sadness, Kalahari’s sweet harmonica holding space for us to process, to party. Inviting us to cry, C’mon Baby realises it’s okay to react, to rage, to sob – and yet again a lonesome guitar presses bloody, tear stained footprints further along the landscape of the album, our lives. It promises the sadness will one day break. It’s on the horizon. Can you see it?
Then, as simply as it started, it dissipates. The loneliness. The emptiness. Bronco launches into a disco celebration of the clouds clearing, the joy of feeling better – a musical flutter of freedom continued in Trample out the Days – a click along echo guitar again pressing forward despite our past experiences. Blush is a queer love anthem. Any Turn parodies R.E.M.‘s The End Of The World As We Know it punk vocals, and we can’t escape the mirroring message of the two songs – both concern the world ending, and surviving with a swagger and a forward motion despite it all.
It’s clear Peck did not have a great pandemic. In fact, like many of us, he’s referred to it as the unhappiest he’s ever been. Losing his primary occupation, being booted off tour by covid understandably hit Peck hard, sliding off into a sadness that most of us would struggle to surmise. Unlike the other pandemic albums though, Peck didn’t choose lost love, intimacy or deep dark secrets for his theme with Bronco – instead he chose the act of sadness and the thrill of recovery itself. There’s no stripped down or stripped back here – the mask is only there to sit in with his committed aesthetic. It’s raw, unbridled, in-depth beauty.
Bronco is fully fledged sincere emotion, wall to wall acceptance, that therapist who teaches you to sit with your feelings. Full of shadow work, worthy of any skilled occultist. A credit to its genre, to country music, and to feeling the fear and persevering anyway. Cos what the fuck else you gonna do?