Posts Tagged ‘Feel It’

The Cowboys

Bloomington’s best kept secret has always deserved wider acclaim, With each new release The Cowboys continue to cement their status as a garage-soul force for good in the world. The band’s last few records have refined their sound, giving a glint of pop preen to their sometimes rough garage swagger. Room of Clons, released earlier this year, pushed them perhaps a bit further towards darkness, but they’re wandering back into the light with the newly minted Lovers In Mable EP. The songs here are out from under the umbrella obfuscation and reveling in the sun that shone on their 2019 LP The Bottom of a Rotten Flower. Like that charmer, this short-form dose of swoon and swelter is doused in the big-hearted soul of frontman Keith Harman and its hard not to be taken in by his warmth.

While The Cowboys might nip from power pop well that fed Emitt Rhodes or Van Duren and mix in a crunch of the less psychedelic arm of Nuggets-era poppers a la The Mickey Finn. the band’s croon contenders find them transported back to a kind of transfixed ‘70s pop star moment. There’s a feeling of Harman occupying a state of mind that’s between Todd’s Runt years, or mocking up his best unbuttoned Bowie by way of Kevin Ayers pose There’s a shabby grandness that’s packed with allure. His tie’s undone, the ash on the cigarette is long forgotten. The lights cook deep into his features and the slight wobble of a disco ball gives things a ballroom appeal. When The Cowboys are at their best the speakers seem to sigh. They’re picking up a torch from the past to light a new path for all garage-soul sweaters. The EP is out today, so feel free to nab it up quick.

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Smarts

A jittery shot in the arm reaches the masses today with the proper debut from Smarts. The band brings together some ace Aussie talent, with members of Living Eyes, Ausmuteants, Parsnip and School Damage in tow. Smarts captures the kind of fork in the light socket jolt that spread through the Midwest around the tail of the ‘70s, injecting punk with a stable of bands who were heavier on damaged scope than effortless cool. They knit together Devo’s caustic worldview with the jagged edges of underground currents like The Pink Section, Pere Ubu, MX-80, Dow Jones and the Industrials, and Geza X. Though they’d drop down nicely next to current squirm-punk purveyors like Uranium Club. While planty of punks, especially in their vicinity are looking to the smashed glass school of riff wrangle, Smarts wield their fury with a sense of fun.

The band has an admirable ability to not take themselves too seriously, while still drawing quite a bit of blood musically. The pace is breathless and its pretty easy to see how multiple players behind Living Eyes and Ausmuteants are in the mix here. The latter’s sense of chaotic drive comes to mind more than once over the course of the album’s scant playing time, though they don’t drop too heavily in the shadow of their former bands. The blasts of sax from Stella Rennex lace the record with Downtown ‘70s vibes. The chewed foil guitars butt heads with ozone-crusted synths and Billy Gadner’s nasal delivery gives this one a perfectly fried-nerve approach. The best of the ‘70s twitchers weren’t in it because picking up a guitar made you cool, they were tearing apart the rock idol with each ragged riff. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway is born out of that bloodline and it jolts just as hard.


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The Cowboys

While its a weird time to have any music on the dock that’s not just an uneasy drone whirring down to the bone each day, there’s still plenty to love sluicing out of the slicer this week. Bloomington’s Cowboys have been on a personal streak over the last couple of years, kicking out a number of low-key tapes and transitioning to a run of LPs for Feel It / HoZac / Drunken Sailor recently. Their latest scatters some of their more rambunctious garage tendencies and introduces a more brittle brand of post-punk that’s in line with the rising stress levels in a world gone wrong. This pops up on the first single “The Beige Collection” and in turn on “Wise Guy Algorithm.” As the album eases in though, the band can’t help but let their usual shaggy charms seep into the sound once more. They were never built to be the bearers of bad news anyhow.

There’s sobering tones on the spiraling, lonesome, “A Killing,” but even this has a humanness to it that’s well in line with The Cowboys cache. After a short reprieve they find themselves swimming in the same swell later on with “Sweet Mother Earth” — a candlelit, wine-stained ode to diminished resources. They might have gone a bit far into the bottle on the following “Ninety Normal Men” which borders on home grown musical territory, but then again who’s to say they aren’t fucking with us as usual. The band excels at letting the corners of their smile soak into the songs. They’re not looking for a joke in everything, but they’re not above it. Yet when its called for the band brings a real twist of soul to garage, finding common footing with the likes of Black Lips and Royal Headache (though never reaching the alchemical brilliance of the latter). ]

The LP feels like the band in transition. It’s not quite reaching the slapdash superb moments of last year’s The Bottom of a Rotten Flower, but there are more than a few great impulses here. The hearts are peeking out of the sleeves just a tad bit more and they make it work. Interspersed with a couple of welcomed sunshine strums, some hip-shake and shimmy and sonic simmer that never boils over, the band continues to be ones to watch and probably wont’ shake that status anytime soon.


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Protruders – “Hydrophytol”

Canadian punks Protruders have an EP landing in a few weeks on Feel It and the first single from that slab is a savage shard of burnt wire pyrotechnics. “Hydrophytol” is bruised and bent, clinging to fidelity by its fingernails as the bastard son of Electric Eels and Pere Ubu, though inevitable Fall comparisons are welcome as well. Haywire squonks jut out in every direction from the track while the on the vocal front, the mood swerves from any touch of mania. Like a calm nihilistic walk through the streets of a riot, Protruders seems to be enjoying the chaos while never letting it get under their own skin. Gonna want to get into this one when it leaps to the streets on April 20th.



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The Cowboys

Bloomington’s best kept secret are back and burning like never before with their latest album for Feel It. Taking a springboard off of their last LP, 3rd, the band continues to refine their sound, rolling their garage rumble in a dose of blue-eyed soul and a few kaleidoscopic touches of ‘60s pop. The Bottom of a Rotten Flower has the band working at their tightest sonically, adding in an additional guitarist in the form of Chris Kramer (Nobunny), thickening up the sound and giving a slapdash of bubblegum fun to tracks like “Wet Behind The Eyes” and “Some Things Never Change.” They’ve shirked a bit of their Todd Rundgren cracked loner vibes this time around, and while I miss ‘em personally, this is a much more upbeat offering than the last that’s swaggering with a well-deserved confidence.

That’s not to say its all brash and guitar smash here. The band’s been notable for merging power pop, garage and classic rock touches into timeless songs that hang on the indominable rasp of Keith Harman, but they also know how to dim the lights without losing an ounce of energy. He’s breaking into the ‘80s soundtrack trophy case, pounding the keys like Elton and letting that sunset sax drip all over the end credits on “Now With Feeling.” While over on “My Conscience is Clean” they add a touch of smoke and smolder, draping the mic cable around their shoulders for a touch of garage-soul smolder. The band, naturally, shines when the tempos sweat and there’s a touch of cartoon glee in their eyes, but what makes this their most accomplished record is that they’re building something bigger than one off grab of garage hooks.

This is the closest the band has sounded to an album, planned and proper, sequenced to sting. It’s a big record that testifies to the enduring power of the electric guitar in an age when the form has begun its slide towards the bin for many. The Cowboys are proving as classic as their moniker – kicking out a true doublwide American rock n’ roller that feels built to endure and endear.



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The Cowboys – “Some Things Never Change”

Photo: Caroline Marchildon

Every new LP from Bloomington, Indiana’s The Cowboys further cements them in my mind as true savants of garage bliss. Over the past few years the rough edges have fallen away but their sense of chaotic fun hasn’t ebbed one bit. Their fourth LP is on the way from Feel It records who’ve worked with the band in the past, bringing their Volume 4 to LP from its humble cassette origins. “Some Things Never Change” is a sunny day strummer that’s pinned to a tumble of organ and some of the band’s catchiest hook work to date. This one carves out some of the soul and heads to the heart of power pop and it sounds good on ‘em. Definitely bumping this record up to the top of the anticipated pile for 2019.



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