I like this newly formed alliance of Squarehead and So Cow. Two bands that have gained my respect over the past few years for (a) thinking outside the box, and (b), booting the box out of our fair isle.
We had nothing but great things to say about So Cow and their live show back in May and now that front man Brian Kelly has let the others handle the udders (full band), these boys could milk it all the way the top. Thing is, they don’t need to milk anything as they have it all in abundance. Great songs, a great look, not to mention the seriously energetic live shows.
In Squarehead-ville, it’s much the same. Like So Cow, they too have a large international fan base, and past releases on the much lauded Richter Collective alongside the taste makers penisula Popical Island has done wonders for them at home. I’ve caught these boys on a number of occasions and they too fail to disappoint.
Inflated Records have just released Out of Season, a split album featuring both Squarehead and So Cow in a magical meeting of minds, drenched in pop bliss. Although bands have shared 7″ splits over the years, the concept of a split album, although rare, works very well with the right ingredients.
The So Cow side of the album opens with the wonderful ‘I Hardly Know You’, a tribute in ways to the heyday of 60′s beat pop. The basslines are busy, the guitars are fuzzed up as Kelly and co do their best Lennon & McCartney over this 3 minute blast of pop perfection. ‘Days From the Ninth’ becomes a little throwaway (bar the spaced out middle eight that smells like 90′s 4AD) after such a great start before So Cow go Cow-Punk for the juiced up hardcore vibe of ‘Ruane vs The A Bomb’. ‘Laundry Service’, although “Out of Season”, could bring the excitement to any summer, Orgasm Addicts in toe. On ‘Waltzer’ Kelly drives it home by letting us know “We get the weather we deserve”, as the waltz rhythms unfold into a wall of distorted Jaguars. Out of Season or not, So Cow prove once again that there is no shortage of beef on the table.
Over on Side B, Squarehead waste no time in picking up where they left off. 2011′s Yeah Nothing was one of the highlights of the Irish release calendar and rightly so. Squarehead have that effervescent youthful energy that’s difficult to ignore. They kick it all off with ‘More Quickly’, with Roy’s vocal sounding like a tasteful helium experiment over a healthy does of early Nirvana, trashing it out like their lives depend on it in the chorus section. ‘Hammertime’ proves that these boys (as we certainly know by now) can write a great pop song. They haven’t jumped aboard the “cool train” to fall into the current list of wannabe garage/surf pop band wagoners doing the rounds, they’ve always sounded like this. Album highlight ‘C’mon Man’ follows, again driving home the poptasticness of this band with its double snare hits and smartly placed backing vocals, “C’mon man, why do you always look so sad” Rory tells a friend, who seems to be missing a certain lady more than he might have imagined. What’s cool about this release is the lack of slow songs that harp on about losing the missus (ala Hansard’s usual shite) – here it’s just balls to the wall, rock n roll. The level of craftsmanship continues all the way to the end with the jangle-jangle, sunshiiiiiine vibe of ‘Sicknote’. We’ll never shy away from a refrain of “na – na na na – na na na – na na – na na na – na -na na na – na na” (might have missed one there…) in any pop song.
Squarehead wrap it up with ‘Harkin’ On’, although far from it the song really does showcase their creativeness when it comes to deploying melody over chord structures, something they seem to do in their sleep from what we gather. Although it’s fucking Baltic outside, this kind of energy is infectious to say the least. I’m in two minds about jumping out the front door for a quick pogo up the street but I might wait until we’re in season.
Inflated Records can do no wrong with this concept, so too, So Cow and the mighty Squarehead. Although somewhat sceptical of the idea at first, the spilt album works fantastically well as a whole. It’d be nice to see some other Irish bands utilise this approach as new means of output, breaking away from the traditional 7″ singles, 5 track EP’s and full length albums. I’m trying to picture what amazing combinations could come forward to form a rock n roll alliance, it might be an answers on a postcard deal. I’ll leave it to YOU! For now at least Squarecow have delivered the goods, give me an Out of Season over a ‘Swell Season’ any fucking day!