Review Summary: Noisy pseudo-hillbilly punk
Cows were a noisy punk band that existed from 1986-1998. With Daddy Has Tail
, their second album, they created a messy noise soup of a record that somehow contained songs in them!
Oh and messy it is. For instance the opener (a half-cover of the Johnny Kidd and The Pirates song, "Shakin' all over.") is such an annoying and wild take on the original. They completely throw out the 60's style guitar and vocal melodies and replace them with layers of filth and hideousness. Even the lyrics changed as singer Shannon Selberg belts out the first line of this new version: "Yo, girl I love it when you make my asshole bleed."
From there you get a plethora of distorted bass-slides, drunk redneck vocal melodies, pounding drums, and squealing guitars. "Camouflage Monkey" is a dirty punk romp and one of the fastest cuts on the record. But Cows were never a typical punk band. The song is drenched in noise while still being a pretty structured wall of sound. Even the meanest punk bands weren't making stuff dripping with all these ugly chords and feedback. The next song, "Part My Konk" show how the Cows could create a slow (even though the song speeds up quite a bit in the bridge) wasteland of distorted ***ery and still have a tune in there somewhere.
"Chow" was the single of Daddy
and it is definitely one of the highlights. It has the pounding but rhythmic drums, the blazing guitar, and the trailer park drunk vocals that make of most Cows songs. However, what makes this song so good is the straight up earth-rumbling bass line. Well, it isn't so much a bass line but just a bass being detuned and tuned back over and over. The effect it creates is so heavy and claustrophobic. With better production this is effect could be accomplished much better but part of this albums charm is it's ugly murkiness.
The album actual flows pretty well with a strong mix of fast and slow songs. Each song sticks out because it sounds different than the last while still sounding like the Cows. Tempos get switched up all the time and Selberg can actually come up with catchy melodies without sounding like he's trying. The sheer volume and metallic sounds banging around keep the album plodding along without getting boring.
"Bum In The Alley" should also be considered a major highlight. It starts with the sound of broken glass and then immediately bursts into an extremely brutal riff while Selberg yelps out the title. It breaks down into halftime tempo for a while until you hear cowbells and then back to the crushing riff. This repeats for three minutes until you are gasping for breath. "I Miss Her Beer" is another great fast song that is no frills punk rock with a side of LOUD.
The production of the record can be considered part of the overall feel of the record or a complete detriment. It's all very lo-fi and there really aren't any fancy tricks employed. As far as capturing the bands sound, it is okay. It's murky but doesn't ruin the songs. It subjectively either adds to the dank cave vibe of the record, or makes it almost unlistenable. Personally, I'm in the former camp.
Although there are some songs that aren't pulled off as well as others, every song is good. The songwriting isn't overly ambitious but does stay interesting for the most part. There aren't many twists and turns, as most songs are verse-chorus in structure, but they would become even less predictable later in their career.
What this record really shows is the Cows at a certain early era where they could totally bust out loud, messy songs that still rocked out. But the Cows never sold out. Although they got better at their style of punk rock and cleaned up their sound a bit, they always stayed unorthodox and nasty. This is is just simply Cows at their most feral, their most unhinged, and possibly their most fun.
Not for everyone, and certainly not a record I would advise playing at a party. But if you are feeling brave and like to be annoyed while banging your head, this record could be right up your alley.