In 1901 Sir Ernest Shackleton began the first of multiple trips to the frozen tundra of Antarctica. He was filled with a sense of euphoria realizing that his dreams of exploring the frigid continent was close to becoming a reality and that one day a rag tag band of musicians from Florida would record a damn fine album of tunes in tribute to his momentous exploits. With one of the most entertaining history lessons I have ever embarked upon, Have Gun, Will Travel have put their heart and soul into Science From an Easy Chair, a personal collection of songs capturing the exploratory spirit of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
The 12 songs on Science From an Easy Chair walk listeners through Shackleton’s failed journey with his ship the Endurance. Have Gun, Will Travel captures the excitement, defeat, anguish and relief of this disastrous trip into the frozen landscape at the bottom of the world.
The record opens with the exuberance Shackleton and crew must have possessed as they readied the expedition. “Spirit of Discovery” is a jaunty tune that touches on the elation, trepidation and euphoria one would face as an historic journey approaches. The chugging “True Believers” expresses the confidence Shackleton and crew posess to tackle this undertaking. Much like Shackleton’s foray into frosty waters the album takes a perilous turn. An unexpected abundance of ice cements the Endurance in place leaving the crew trapped and battered by the elements which is detailed on the track “Madhouse Promenade”. A frantic musical pace helps hammer home the dire situation and the haunting backing vocal harmonies as the track explodes into chaos is a fitting conclusion. One of the best tracks on the record is “Goodnight, Sweet Chariot” an ode to the Endurance. The melancholy lyrics create a mental picture allowing listeners to visualize the ship being crushed by the pack ice then slipping below the frigid waters. “Good Old Shakespeare” is a song about the loss of a trusty dog, but it is much more as the song symbolizes the struggle and loss the group faced throughout the journey. The songs “The Rescue Party” and “Despair & Redemption on Elephant Island” take a darker tone. Have Gun, Will Travel sings about a crew that is full of doubt and despair losing hope as each day passes in their frozen prison. Fortunately Ernest Shackleton’s perseverance leads to their rescue and the end of their arduous journey. The album ends with the song “Bottom of the World” a reflective look at everything the explorer and his cohorts experienced. You can imagine the crew sitting around all battered and bruised reliving their ordeal. The song pulls the album together concluding the bands story.
Have Gun, Will Travel’s Science From an Easy Chair is so much better than I ever expected. The band created an album on their own terms much in the same manner Shackleton took on Antarctica. Concept albums are frowned upon by many and for good reason. Most are overblown personal indulgences that result in very little music worth listening to but this album does not fall into that category. It is a solid record from start to finish loaded with songs that will stand up over time. Do not be scared of Science From an Easy Chair, this batch of tunes will stimulate the brain, tickle the auditory senses and demand to be listened to time and time again. Have Gun, Will Travel set out on an ambitious undertaking that had a high risk of failure, they tossed caution to the wind and delivered in a big way.