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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cows - Cunning Stunts

Name: Cows
Album: Cunning Stunts
Year: 1992
Style: Fuzz/Noise Alternative
Similar Bands: Mudhoney, Butthole Surfers, Jesus Lizard, Melvins, Cop Shoot Cop, Nirvana
"One-Word" Review: Simplistic-Nasal-Grind-Noise
Based Out Of: Minneapolis, Mn
Label: Amphetamine Reptile Records
Cunning Stunts - Cover & Inside
Cunning Stunts (1993)
  1. Heave Ho 2:07 (Sample)
  2. Walks Alone 2:46 (Sample)
  3. Contamination 3:10 (Sample)
  4. Mr. Cancelled 4:19 (Sample)
  5. Mine 3:30 (Sample)
  6. Midnight Cowboy 2:50 (Sample)/
  7. Everybody 3:00 (Sample)
  8. Two Little Pigs 3:00 (Sample)
  9. The Woman Inside 2:33 (Sample)
  10. Terrifique 3:14 (Sample)
  11. Down Below 4:06 (Sample)
  12. Ort 4:22(Sample)
Album Rating (1-10):

Members & Other Bands:Kevin Rutman - Bass
Shannon Selberg - Vocals (The Heroine Sheiks)
Norm Rodgers - Drums
Thor Eisentrager - Guitar (Teenage Larve)
Daniel Corrigan - Cover Photo
Haze - Cover Design Theft
Iain Burgess - Recording (Gark Studios)
David B. Livingstone - Thanks (Teenage Larve)

Unknown-ness: I had heard of Cows, but I could not where or why. I seemed to remeber hearing about them in a positive light, so I once I saw the tape, and recalled that they were something to listen to, check out, and probably enjoy, I got it. From the way the text is layed out on the cover, and the blurred trumpet image, it looks as if this would be a jazz album. I don't think that is the genre of what I remember them being catagorized by, but that is what the album art reminds me of.

Album Review: So I have read that they are noise. But I've also read that this album is their most musical. I go into this review not knowing their back catalogue, but solely on this album’s content. “Heave Ho” is the first track, starting with a baby crying, then guitar noise, and a trumpet. The angry voice is gruff, similar to early Nirvana. But the music takes form, and it is three chord driving rock, broken up by the frantic trumpet playing. A short guitar hook begins the next song, and then the fast paced driving rhythm is pushed forward by loud bass and drums. The sing/shouting comes in quick pulses, and is very similar to Ween's Stroker Ace. “Walks Alone” relies on the voice as just another musical instrument, where the syllables add to and define the music, rather than being layered overtop. “Contamination” starts off as a drunken, staggering noise beat. When the vocals start, it finds direction, and moves quickly with a thrustful drums keeping time. This song feels like an updated cover of Black Sabbath style metal. The song breaks rhythm twice when it returns to the warbling music from the intro. “Mr. Cancelled” feels like a typical fuzz filled alternative song. The pace is sludggery, and very repetitive. “Mine” too, is very repetitive lyrically and musically. The guitars and bass roll along, up and down like a bumpy ocean voyage. Side A ends with a great, heavy cover of the Midnight Cowboy theme. There must have been something about the movie’s popularity in 1992, because Faith No More also covered the Midnight Cowboy theme on their Angel Dust record. The Cow’s version features “oooh” vocals following the melody up and down the scale.

“Everybody” has a bass hook begin the song, and it continues throughout. Again, the song is very simplistic, sounding very much like Nirvana on this track. With fast driving guitars it is complete with grinding, raspy vocals double layered every time the syllable “Ev” of everybody is sung. There is even some screaming that is most identifiable with Mike Patton mixed in. “Two Little Pigs” shows two distinct personalities behind the vocals. At first it is the Cobain-like nasally aggression, and there is the deeper, concentrated, murmuring grind. From the start of “The Woman Inside,” the guitars and drums propel us into a fast sprint. The vocals are either very quiet, reminding me of Sonic Youth or uniquely screeched, taking turns in the different musical sections. But it all is done at such a quick musical pace that the speed of the song is what really stands out. “Terrifique” starts out with a really catchy carnival-esq guitar and the bass is added, adding to and heightening the creepy carnival sound-scape. The song goes through many style changes of metal, prog and carnival. We hear more of the vocal style made famous by Cobain whenever the title is sung. “Down Below” breaks from the pattern set forth by the rest of the album. It is more structured, and the singing is more melodic, relaxed and concentrated. The music is still simple noise and three-chord structure. But even the repetitive nature of the title lyrics toward the end of the song is very catchy. And the hollow sounding spooky-guitar (almost sounding like the motion detection Halloween ghost decoration that shakes and hoots) is really a nice added element. “Ort” is an exercise in vocal range. He howls, rising his vocals quickly from a gruff rhasp, and then back down. Most of the song is sung at the low end. The repetitive music creates a grooving head nodding metal piece to support the vocal melodies. And there is a great awkward, sudden stop at the end of the song.

Heave Ho, Walks Alone, and Everybody are the stand out tracks. The music is very listenable. Where its simple composition and controlled vocal styles might seem like too little and too much respectively at first listen, they songs are actually very infectious, as repetitive things can be. But the music comes off as being calculate, rather than showing the limit of their abilities as a band.

Stand-Out Track:
Walks Alone

Cows Wikipedia
Cows Allmusic
Cows Interview Mark Prindle
Cows Myspace fansite
Cows on Trouser Press
CS reviewed
Cows Videos Youtube: Seasofluck
Cows on Rate Your Music
Heroine Sheiks - Myspace

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perception. This album has been a favourite of mine since the moment it hit the shelves, way back in the early 90's. I don't go for their other albums really, but this one grabbed me by the balls from day one, and never ever let go. I love everything on it. I'd heard them previously on the "Dope Guns and Fucking in the Streets" compilation, and hated that song ("Traffic Accident Sex" I think it was), but still went back for another listen when this came out - and I'm sure glad I did. "Heave Ho" and "Two Little Pigs" are just mad, "Down Below" has a sombre and touching drive behind the violence. There's a beautiful self-critique to "Mr Canceled" and "Walks alone" and "Ort" are wonderful tragedies. This is a fantastic album, in my opinion, and it's never lost it's power and momentum. Thoroughly underrated.