They Made Her a Criminal by the Austin-based Transgressors is sort of new and sort of not, depending on how you count these things. But its somewhat twisty release history pales in comparison to the deliciously tortured music this four-piece creates. Call it Texas noir, cow-punk, gothic garage surf-punk, whatever, it rocks hard and twangs like all get-out thanks to an abundance of Telecaster riffage and giant beats.
The Transgressors laid down the tracks for these songs in 2006 with production help by Michael Crow of fellow Texas twangers Grand Champeen. It followed their self-titled debut that was apparently more of a Texas-style homage to the desert noir of Ennio Morricone, but this one was all twang and bang and dark, dark lyrics. They finally released it on CD in 2016, and one of those who bought that CD was Richard Lynn, founder of the Texas punk label Super Secret Records. He thought it would benefit greatly from the remaster/vinyl treatment, so now that’s what you can get, They Made Her a Criminal with tons of vintage tone and warmth on vinyl. Plus Super Secret is putting some promotional muscle behind it, which is why you’re reading about it here!
Now, I’m not listening to it on vinyl, but it still sounds pretty great. This band has been playing bars and clubs and such not just in Texas but all over the country for nearly 18 years, and it sounds it. It’s a sharp, loose-but-tight sound that’s uniform across all of these songs, but those songs have a pretty rich lyrical diversity. Within certain limits, of course. That’s where such terms as Texas noir come in.
They’re out of the gate galloping with “The Day Bobby Fuller Died,” an homage to their fellow Texan who everybody remembers for his hit “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won).” Get a sample of this one on this album teaser.
It winds up 13 tracks later with a rocking version of “Till Death Do Us Part,” which is featured in more of a honky-tonk weeper-style slow version about midway through the tracklist. In case you’re wondering, the lyrics make that phrase more of a threat than a promise, and that’s in keeping with some of the other standout numbers, like “Driving Nails In The Floor Over You,” the title track, and “I’d Die To Kill For You.”
Other favorites on this one include their loping, Buddy Holly-style cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “You’re Running Wild” and the bloody western ballad “Maddox Creek,” which plays like an homage to Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three. (To give you an idea of this band’s dark sense of humor, this one features a boy who wants to kill his girl and the fellow she ran off with, and being told by his father in the catchy refrain, “Put that knife away boy, put that knife away,” because dad ambushed them and did the deed with his trusty sidearm.) That slow version of the kiss-off song “Till Death Do Us Part” features superb harmonies from guest vocalist Laura Phelan, by the way. They’re both winners. As is the whole disc. Memorable tunes, superb musicianship, lyrics that are darkly hilarious or deeply dramatic, all in a loud, twangy, rocking package. I didn’t know how much I needed The Transgressors until this record came along.
(Super Secret, 2019)