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The Junk Ranchers were one of the many guitar-based rock bands on the American college scene in the mid-80s. On the basis of 86 – recorded in the titular year, but only now released due to the group’s breakup before mixing was completed – the quartet was also one of the better examples. With a lineup of future indie/alt.country/Cocktail Nation notables (Jimmy Ryan of the Blood Oranges and *Beacon Hillbillies, Nick Cudahy of Christmas and Combustible Edison, Ron Ward from the Oranges, Speedball Baby and Five Dollar Priest – ironically only bandleader Tony Pinto has since labored in obscurity), the talent is undeniable, but what brings it altogether are the songs themselves. With a clear love for both sixties-derived folk rock of the R.E.M. variety and the then-current British and Australian neopsych guitar bands, plus a dash of gothic moodiness, the Ranchers infuse the brooding “Without a Doubt” and “After All” and the rocking “Drowning” and “Shadows” with a seemingly effortless balance of memorable melody, nervous energy and emotional gloom. Mixed and mastered by Kirk Swan – whose band Dumptruck provides a useful reference point – 86 rescues a worthy recording from oblivion, one that should be of interest to more than just janglephiles.
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