album review: two cow garage – the death of the self preservation society

two cow garage @ local 506

The new Two Cow Garage starts off with a blast of static and feedback, before it gallops into opening track “The Little Prince and Johnny Toxic”, and what may very well be their finest album to date. Over the last few albums, Two Cow has polished their recording sound up, and one of my favorite things about The Death Of The Self Preservation Society is the raggedness of all of it. There’s little “cow” left in the pounding garage punk sound of these songs, with the guitars almost overwhelming Micah’s vocals in some places. That’s almost a shame, as I think it shows off how Micah’s songwriting has matured and grown. Every track on this record is double speed, Micah spitting out the words and waiting for the guitars to crash in and spit and flail in the same way.

are you, are you growing up or just growing old

It isn’t that this record is louder than previous Two Cow records; Two Cow is always loud. It’s not that Micah sounds as if he’s been gargling whiskey and broken glass even more than usual. It’s that there’s a rawness to the music that hasn’t been in the last two albums, and that rawness carries with it a sense of power, an idea that this album could be less ragged edges, more clean-cut production. What impresses me most about the raw feel of The Death Of The Self-Preservation Society is how purposeful and contained it makes the music feel. That shouldn’t make any sense, or shouldn’t be, but it is: the rawness feels deliberate, and the deliberation and preciseness of this album feels wild. It’s circular and it’s a testament to how good Two Cow are at songwriting and orchestration. A wild, ragged album can be a mess; this is a wild, ragged masterpiece.

Self-Preservation Society is shot through with a lot of the issues that crop up in Micah’s songwriting — less so in Shane’s, but not entirely not there — about mortality, and fear, and the power of wanting to live and having to struggle to get there. It’s all drugs and self-destruction and the title is apt: when you stop taking care of yourself, these rough anthems to staying alive at any cost are what you have, and they have a beauty in themselves. It’s an album I connect to deeply right now, as all of Two Cow’s albums have been at various points in my life, and I think it’s not only their best album thus far, I think it’s the most honest. It’s particular honest when the band slows down for the stunning “Mantle In ’56”, which will definitely be the centerpiece of my baseball mix next spring — an open, slowed down ode to the messes we make of our 20s, with a juke joint piano line that underscores the pain and the truth.

Two Cow always stuns me with their records, because they just keep getting better, and they just keep growing and moving forward in their music. We’re all still making messes of our lives, but Two Cow Garage is writing albums that help me figure out how to clean those messes up.

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