Posts Tagged ‘The Cowboys’

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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The Cowboys – “The Beige Collection”

Bloomington’s garage-soul swelters The Cowboys are back and the carefree flow that was palpable on The Bottom of a Rotten Flower seems to have evaporated overnight as we head into their new LP, Room of Clons. “The Beige Collection” is a dark, brooding introduction to their new LP, driving deep into the night with a hungry riff and the vocals of frontman Keith Harman hovering over the listener with a sinister edge. Seems the rest of the album might return to some of their homegrown punk roots but here, for the moment, The Cowboys are post-punk purveyors of a measured menace that’s hard to shake. The record hits shops and mailboxes alike on April 4th.


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ABC Gum

A power pop powerhouse emerges from Bloomington in the form of the debut from ABC Gum. Call it a supergroup if you must – the band contains members of Bloomington garage royalty from The Cowboys, The Dancing Cigarettes, Purple 7, and Sir Deja Doog – but the connections would crumble if they didn’t bring it all together with an effortless snap that’s catchy as hell and shaded in with a perfectly classic tint. At its heart, the record captures the best of classic power pop with a stripped down sound shaking soul and sweat out of its bones. While ABC Gum are tougher than The Quick or Milk n’ Cookies, they’re digging into the alluring naïveté of that rabble in the lyrical department. The band aims for the heartbroken swagger of Teenage Head, Speedies, or Hubble Bubble and hits it pretty hard on the head with just a touch more of blue-eyed soul seeping through the speakers as well. Maybe it’s the help from The Cowboys contingent, as the record does seem to have some of their same innate ability to feel like its dropped out of the sky and straight into the crate of classic platters that never leave the table when the house is buzzing. You’d be forgiven for double or triple checking the date stamp, that’s for sure.

The band laces the record with a perfect dose of tape hiss tailspin and then litters each song with a thick dose of riff riot propping up their candy floss tales. The stone truth is this will likely wind up just as much of a lost gem as the bands that they emulate, but maybe its all for the best anyway. The greatest power pop records seem like a secret, having long been a diggers dream for lonely souls looking for friends and lovers among the grooves. Should this become a sonic love letter that’s found at the bottom of the dollar bin bottle, then the finder is lucky indeed.


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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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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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The Cowboys

Bloomington’s Cowboys spit-shined their work for Volume 4, the first of their records that found them studio bound. That record snuck out on tape last year and caught a few ears, but hardly enough, given the promise the band showed and the kind of sweat ‘n soul whirlwind they were showcasing between those two spools. Happily, a couple of folks agreed enough to press it down to LP this year and the band follows on with their a brand new LP for Hozac.

They’ve strayed from the studio back to their home setup, but despite cranking these tunes to 8-track, they’ve still managed to keep the crust at bay. Despite a little tape hiss, the transition isn’t too noticeable. Forging on with plenty more sweat-wrenchers, the band’s prowess is cemented within the grooves of the new record, and on 3rd LP, they should rightfully garnish comparisons to Aussie exports Royal Headache. For all their shakin’ bouts of guitar twang their true asset is apparent in vocalist Keith Harman, who’s got a a leather-scratched soul wail that’s as classic as any. His delivery bumps them up out of the cattle call of garage bands that swarm the country. Though, to say Harman’s the only reason to listen isn’t giving The Cowboys enough credit.

The band’s also got a real affinity for shying away from the cliches of garage’s past and present. They’ve got a lighter touch and aren’t afraid to swagger into territory that’s more Todd Rundgren than tortured fuzz (“Mike’s Dust”, “Like A Man”) and it suits them well. Even when they’re still hitting the gas, Harman pulls them closer to Jagger blue-eyed soul territory rather than tumbling through the Sonics/Stooges axis that’s often split by so many these days. The record’s got a ton of appeal and feels like it’s constantly just a hard push away from making something that’s indelible in the halls of rock. This feels like its going to be a watershed moment to look back on from their undoubtedly future classics.




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Premiere: The Cowboys – “I Hope She’s Ok”

The Cowboys’ excellent Vol. 4 was a nice surprise last year. The band cleaned up their act a bit, headed into the studio and laid down an excellent, yet overlooked album. It bumped them onto some radars though, and with luck they’re about to pop on a few more. Their pace hasn’t faltered a step as they head into the Fall with another release on the docket, this time for HoZac. They’ve swapped the studio for the four track this time, but “I Hope She’s Ok” doesn’t show too much crackle for their austerity. As a contrast to the first taste, “Mike’s Dust,” the band kicks the up tempo again and injects a ragged spirit into the track. They cut the edge with a sweet blue-eyed soul stab before the track melts into a molten fray that should play well in this summer of swelter. It’s just more goodness from a band that’s quietly building a reputation as slept on garage-pop heroes.



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The Cowboys

January always ends up a nice little filter for those releases that dove a bit deeper and missed the net in the previous year. Sadly I’m just getting to write up this killer tape from Bloomington’s garage chargers The Cowboys. The band has had several EPs out over the past few years, culminating in an album released on Lumpy records that cherry picked some of their best tracks from the first three. The album and earlier material showed the promise of a band finding their footing and digging through some proto-punk piles to find their sound. On the band’s latest tape for hometown label Turd World, they seem to have finally found it. The fidelity is bounced up a notch and they smooth out their clangin’ into a swagger that digests the nerviness of ’70s punks like The Flys, The Quick or The Wasps with a low-slung purr that reminds me of The Growlers in a very nice way. They still have just a touch of the Billy Childish froth hanging on from their early EPs as well, and it all comes together to a rather essential, yet brief release.

Vol. 4 is packed with moments that feel less like a band with a crush on those halcyon days, than one that’s so accurately recreating the vibe they could very easily slip a few of these into lost punk and power pop comps and pass rather convincingly as long lost sneer merchants. Its just a solid sender from top to bottom. Now for the crushing blow, the tape is sold out (though apparently promised to repress very shortly) and Turd World has not gotten it up digitally as of yet. Fingers crossed on both counts as this one is casting a long shadow as one of 2016’s most overlooked. I’d settle for that tape back in circ, but if some label wants to step up to the vinyl plate, all the better. It deserves it.

For now you can stream the entire tape below.



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