Cowtown – Dudes vs. Bad Dudes

Cowtown - Dudes vs. Bad Dudes

On the third album from Leeds post-punk / new-wave band, Cowtown embrace jangely pop tunes that feature a tinge of 80’s style synths; a sound that is, influentially, more along the lines of the brighter offerings from the genre, comparable to the likes of past genre-giants such as Devo or The Talking Heads.

While on the band’s first album, ‘Pine-Cone Express’ the band worked mainly with aspects of post-punk and pop they also showed interest in the experimental side of the respective genres. On this latest EP, however, the band does away with much of the experimentation found on these earlier releases and sticks to a constant palette of straightforwardness.

Cowtown has an ear for writing upbeat pop-influenced post-punk tunes;  the band’s sound emphasizing the title of their album, an album built on the ingredients of an old school record, that being the inclusion of thick bass, low end analogue synths,  rich guitar,  a crisp drum sound, and vocal flair; all elements of a production aesthetic that focused on clarity in all aspects of a band’s sound. It is a sound that seems intentionally derivative yet manages to maintain relevancy through sheer energy and character. Essentially ‘Dudes vs. Bad Dudes’ sounds just like the album cover; a set of colorful, fun, and “raaaaddd” party tunes to jam out to. While it is a fun listen, at the same time, just like the album cover, if you look at it for too long all of the colors that once stood out from one another blend seamlessly into a pool of saturated vibrancy. It becomes an eyesore, or in this case, a bit of a headache.

My main complaint with Cowtown is their affinity for slathering the guitar and vocals in a nauseating amount of reverb which, much of the time, overpowers a lot of what is going on. Typically, I don’t tend to mind reverb too much, I actually prefer it but when almost everything is either soaked or lost in a saturated mess of reverb it can become mind-numbingly grating and not in a good way. When the guitars aren’t water-logged with reverb there are some moments of brief but tasty solos and the tone the band pulls out along with them is a nice singing overdrive.

Some of the bands most energetic moments can be heard on tracks like ‘Nightbeats’ and most notably on ‘S.Y.P.S.’, a track that opens with some skillful drum work and driving guitar that features a tinge of middle-eastern vibe. The singing fuzzed out overdrive is loaded with color and crunchy chord progressions do a good job of breaking up the monotonous use of reverb.

‘Dudes vs. Bad Dudes’ is a record that will some may find n instant attraction for the vibrant songwriting and moments of cringe worthy but fun cheesiness, although, for myself it is a listen that sits right between listenability and being a bother after repeated listens.

Overall Rating: 4.9

Favorite Tracks: ‘Animals’, ‘Nightbeats’

Recommended: Check out Hired Muscle

Released: 01 April 2013

Links: Visit The Audacious Art Experiment to stream or purchase ‘Dudes vs. Bad Dudes’

-Tyler Thompson

TAIWAN – BELLADONNA

TAIWAN is an experimental recording artist from Edmonton who creates a breed of ethereal jazz infused ambient music that harkens back to the sound of forgotten direct to VHS romance and horror movie soundtracks. While the music is already creepy enough there is an added eeriness from the tape crackle and hiss to the spot on replication of such an obscure sound; BELLADONNA is a 30 minute 18 track foray into the sounds of something lost and forgotten in time, something strangely romantic, familiar and alien, and nostalgic yet new all at the same time.

While the idea of replicating old film scores and bringing a modern twist to them is nothing new (see Zombi, Bohren & der Club of Gore), the type of music that TAIWAN replicates and how similar his interpretations are is where this album shines. TAIWAN’s lo-fi aesthetic and attention to detail in recreating such an obscure sound is surely an art form within itself.

The sounds on BELLADONNA are mostly cheesy Casio style synth arrangements. TAIWAN’s sound is very 80’s-esque inspired new wave, kitschy with what would be the sonic equivalent of some old VHS tapes, forgotten in someone’s basement, the tapes damaged by so many floods and worn out by constant fast forwarding, rewinding, and playing. All of the tracks, although different in style are tied together by their easy listening sound from gritty detective noir themed jazz to sensual piano ballads. It evokes a powerful nostalgic response bringing back memories of wooden paneling and grainy discolored photography, memories that even if one had never experienced are still able to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder that is just as visceral.

The album’s sound is contributed heavily to the phenomenon of nostalgia; instead of rejecting these old sounds it embraces the archaic, taking it back and reworking it into something partially new and listenable even if it still deliberately holds ties to the past. Part of me really enjoys this aspect of replicating, or more accurately this reworking of something old and obscure into something even more strange yet part of me wonders if it would be possible to expand on something like this. The future, a concept TAIWAN openly rejects is quickly closing in and I wonder where the project is going to go when it is confronted with the idea of just that, the future.

TAIWAN has turned drone and ambient music, two genres so focused on a futuristic sound into something old yet new at the same and while I do feel that this stylistic decision is extremely limited in a world where time is quiet literally speeding up I can’t deny the uniqueness that BELLADONNA possesses and the firm hold that these curious and eerie tunes have on that nostalgic longing for the past that everyone possesses from time to time.

Overall rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘B04’, ‘B05’

Recommended: Meat Force

Released: 11 November 2011

Links: Listen to Belladonna on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Adam Vs The Machine – The Flying Batteries

Synth Rock mostly, with a post-punk feel – specially from the tone and style of the vocals. Most of this stuff just screams 80’s influence, not only from post-punk, like the sort of innocence in the use of synths to make up pretty danceable tracks, probably a footprint of the “snescore” they used to categorize their sound on bandcamp.

It’s not all like that though. The 80’s feel, this time leaning towards serious Bono on serious U2 moments, is there in the first part of “A Place to Hide”, for example. This track comes up in the album in just the perfect moment, just after the first three tracks which aim to be hits – and with a pretty good aim. The first track on this is so catchy, vibrant, feel good, danceable, I can’t figure out why this isn’t on MTV or at least making people dance somewhere. If you are just here for the ride, seriously go listen at least to that first track, it’s golden, and A Place to Hide would be the perfect, “serious moment now” second single.

I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing fillers at this point, but even though the immediate satisfaction of the radio-ready first track is still in some sense the best moment of the album, the album doesn’t go down in breath or energy. But they do allow themselves a cool, always-changing instrumental track , “Adam”, which is really enjoyable and samples Final Fantasy 6. The second part of “A Place to Hide” also comes up, but it doesn’t have the same feel as the first part.

Great stuff, first track is a potential hit, I hope these guys the best of luck with this stuff.

-Carpeaux