There’s a cult, 80s-teen, coming of age movie that perhaps was a little too clever for mainstream coin but inspires much devotion amongst its fans. Within this film, there is a prom scene – you know the one – lots of young ‘uns getting their groove on and successfully making it look like it was the best night ever. All the tribes are united, the rockers are headbanging to the driving rhythms, the cool kids are dancing, making the most of the new-wave rhythms, hell, even the much maligned goths are strangely struck by the presence of what is on stage. I feel like I’ve been sucked in to this fictional picture and Cowtown are providing this feeling of unity for real.
They are impossibly good. A dig into their history reveals, they’ve been together a decade plus and released three albums which provokes two questions. Firstly, have they always been this brilliant? And if so, collectively, what have those outside ‘the know’ been doing for the last ten years? They do that thing that all really good bands do, where they make performance look and sound so simple that you wonder why all music isn’t that great – cos it must be easy, right?
They have endured the odd comparison to Deerhoof in their time, which if they were bashful about they likely wouldn’t have closed with a note perfect cover of their tour buddies. However, their strongest moments come when they are bold, upfront and riding on mammoth hooks. ‘Nightbeats’ from their Dudes vs Bad Dudes album is a monster. A guitar lick out of the cock rock playbook, anchored by the new wave smarts of Devo, Talking Heads or even The B-52’s, patiently riding the hook for all it’s worth.
Not that Deerhoof are the sort of band who are going to be upstaged at their own show. For all their undoubted brilliance they really don’t make a reviewer’s life easy, from Greg Saunier’s momentum disrupting monologues to the constant genre-hopping to guitarist Ed Rodriguez’s migraine inducing get-up. However, the one thing it is difficult to deviate from is the level of musicianship, both individually and collectively.
Their brilliance and appeal stems from their ability to combine the brevity of punk with the grandiosity of prog to varying degrees throughout their 13 album back catalogue, meaning the balance that they find between the two genres live is urgent, vital and breathtaking. In order to cram the amount they do into their songs, there is no hook that outstays its welcome, meaning that maximum concentration yields maximum results. There aren’t many bands in the world who successfully mix a pop sensibility with both virtuosity and unimpeachable artistic integrity.