Florida band Have Gun, Will Travel’s concept album Science from an Easy Chair is based on the Imperial Trans-Atlantic Expedition of British Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton that took place from 1914 to 1916. Wait! Before you dismiss a modern concept album based on a historic event as something you won’t be at all interested in, let us not forget New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus’ awesome 2010 concept album The Monitor which was based on the American Civil War, and Radiohead’s underrated 2003 album Hail to the Thief that was based on the United States’ Post-9/11 War on Terror.
Science from an Easy Chair delivers twelve country-tinged songs interspersed with naturalistic effects that recreate life on a ship in the early 1900s. The album opens with wonderful lead guitar picking by Scott Anderson later joined by a fictitious recording of a British man, (assumedly portraying Sir Ernest Shackleton) detailing the goals of his voyage while simultaneously preparing listeners for the themes they can expect to be covered during the course of the record. Standout moments include: the spaghetti western-like “A Call To Arms”, the Shins-esque harmonizing of “The Rescue Party”, and “Good Old Shakespeare” which starts off like Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” before falling into a mid-tempo country number that wouldn’t sound at all out of place on The Replacements’ Tim.
Singer-songwriter Matt Burke’s voice is expressive and distinct. In addition to his style being a good fit for Have Gun, Will Travel’s often eclectic offerings, Burke is articulate and well-suited to serve as a narrator for a story album such as this. It’s easy to see why Have Gun, Will Travel’s music has been used in popular TV shows. Their songs are never saturated in one particular style. The same song that features a slide guitar could easily transition into a quirky time signature or suddenly break into an electric guitar solo that would fit seamlessly into a 1980’s hard rock ballad. Have Gun, Will Travel manage to wear a variety of musical hats throughout Science from an Easy Chair without abandoning their core country-folk aesthetic, and much like the aforementioned successful historic concept albums, you don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate it.