Review Summary: A traumatic, emotion-driven gem buried deep underneath the late 90's JRock rubble.
In Japan, rock is constantly getting pumped out. Ranging from pop rock to rapcore to straight noise, there's something for everyone. However, one of the country's more obscure genres is post-hardcore. Granted there are groups like Acid, Roach, SiM and FACT who broke mainstream popularity and garnered impressive cult fanbases, but other than them, the genre in Japan is pretty much not too tampered with. One group, called the Cowpers, are one of the pioneer groups within the genre, and had an impressive cult following throughout their run as a band. Fairly obscure, the group had a relatively short run, and released only two albums. However, on their 1998 debut album, "Lost Days", Cowpers create their own unorthodox universe, full of feedback, emotionally draining vocals and traditional post-hardcore penetrated through the ears of the listener.
The album opens up with "Lost", which follows a hostile guitar riff, and a sound which channels the broken and battered child in the listener. Frontman Gendo Takebayashi does a great job wailing along the isolated tone of the song. The track sets a trend for the album of desperation and angst, without being sappy enough to border the lines of emo. "Junk" is a song full of atypical post-hardcore frustration, and acts as the perfect soundtrack for the mopey, depressed teenager of the late 90's. The song's frustration, minus the spacey, whimpered vocals is what keeps Cowpers from being yet another emo band, per-se. But their overall style pulls an impressive amount of influence from mid-90's emo, a la Sunny Day Real Estate and the Japanese-based group Eastern Youth. "Crawl Space" & "Out of Bunch" are both short little ditties. "Crawl Space" manages to be one of the most chaotic tracks on the album, which is a frantic noise-inspired track with Gendo shrieking and yelping inhumanely among the disorderly bit of band destruction. The latter, "Out of Bunch", ends up being one of the most addictive tracks on the album, due to its driving feel and the drained vocals from an anonymous feminine guest singer. It is also probably the only track on the album that can be considered to be straight "emo". "Bleeding Red" is a slightly more optimistic sounding song, but still keeps the angsty snarl intact. "Days" is a melancholic epica of sorts with tons of wailing from Gendo over the hopeless sounding track. "88" is probably the album's most depressing moment, with the track consisting of a guitar riff over an electrocardiogram sample. "Rust", the album's final track, is one that consists of a melodic, sulky style, over a wailing guitar and Gendo's stomach-wrenching yelps. The track manages to effectively wrap up the disorganized, and manic depressive style of the album.
In short, "Lost Days" is a fantastic example of a fluster of good ol' fashioned post-hardcore and, at times, unbearable DIY feedback and a depressive sound that haunts the album. A cloudy, mopey album, it's not the type of album that one can play over-and-over, due to its emotionally draining style. But for what it's worth, "Lost Days" by Cowpers does the trick for serving as a soundtrack for the antisocial youth of Japan in the late 90's.