The night was full of pricks. The guy who was the compere for the evening spent more time putting himself over, telling us how wonderful his taste in music was and how great the record label was that he ran than being an entertaining MC. He did a pub quiz as part of the night’s proceedings and all of the questions either had something to do with the bands he liked (which as far as I could tell were Devo and the Cribs) or were questions about artists on his own record label – what a dick.
He’d booked the band Cowtown to play at the event, and got them to do Devo covers. I quite like Devo; I saw them live in Manchester and have a couple of their early albums. I recognised maybe one or two songs that they played. And the audience were indifferent at best. I’m sure that the guy who ran the night was probably jizzing in his pants over the purposefully obscure Devo tracks they were playing, but for the remaining 99% of the audience, we just didn’t give a shit. You’d have thought they’d at least have played ‘Whip It’ - it was New Year’s Eve after all. I saw Cowtown play at the same venue a few months prior and had enjoyed their set, but this just annoyed the hell out me.
A charity shop bargain-bin brought back memories of these nights when I spotted Cowtown’s Pine-cone Express nestled in among M People albums and Mark Owen’s solo effort, so I decided to give them another chance. Pine-cone Express opens with the shambolic ‘I’m in your house (Part 1)’, a track the fuses a great rock riff with fluctuating synths – I remember seeing this one live, and it was blistering. In ‘Part Man, Part Machine, All Cop’ Cowtown wear their influences on their sleeves with nods to Devo, Sonic Youth and the Fall. The song is disjointed, with weird, off key guitar noises and glitchy synths adding to the chaos. The vocals are screamed over the mix, distorted and indecipherable. I think the song might be about Robocop. ‘Curtis Tigers’ (geddit?) is barely held together by a keyboard riff that sounds like it was lifted from a frantic Commodore 64 game, with the rest of the instrumentation sounding like some of Deerhoof’s weirder songs. The words are sneered and drawled into the microphone as if Mark E. Smith never died (he’s dead, right?). Over the next few tracks, the gimmick is starting to wear a bit thin, and it all starts to sound a bit samey. ‘Crab Pamphlet’ raises the interest levels a little, with its stop-start rhythms and retro-synth riffs combining with some genuinely interesting guitar work. Album closer ‘Beat It’ is what would happen if Devo turned all of their amps up too loud and decided to spend a few weeks listening to Arab on Radar.
This album’s definitely one for the charity shop. It’s generic and samey, and I still haven’t forgiven them for not playing ‘Whip It’.