Cow live at Bed Bar, Woking – July 2011
“Cow” are an acoustic 4-piece soul and pop band with a California sound and a kinda sixties-style kookiness concealing a modish edge, flavoring both their sound and their image. This band would not seem out of place supporting The Mamas & the Papas on the Ready Steady Go! show circa 1966…
The band has already ably supported the Woking ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller and has created quite a lot of buzz and excitement on the music scene. I went to see the band as they launched their superbly packaged “Sunrise” E.P at the sumptuous Bed Bar in Woking.
The band is seated in a half-circle and play acoustically, without drums. Female vocalist and guitarist – Maxine – is located in the centre of the group, looking relaxed and regal. She provides the warmth and depth to vocals, but Mark and Ben (on guitars) provide some interesting harmonies and generally descanted sounds. Michael is twanging the bass guitar. They reminded me of the kind of band that would be warmly appreciated on the Val Doonican show! But their insightful lyrics and creative compositions, and the constant intertwining, reminded me more of songs by Loves Lee Arthur in Los Angeles in the 60’s … together with the delicate air of mystery that lies beyond every song, and the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that you are being taken up the-garden-path by the lyrical sub-texts and the arrangements.
“Sunrise” the ‘Side A’ on Cow’s new E.P. is like a sixties fruit-cup of love. Not unlike anything by the Mamas & the Papas in aspirations or moodiness. At first glance, this could be put down as a light pop song, but by rubbing its delicate surface, it reveals darker secrets. There is a flourishing yet controlled burst of chukka-chukka rhythms set amongst a profusion of squelchy guitars, but the flamenco style beats and the pervasive chords get heads nodding and feet tapping.
“New Day” ( this song went town well at Wembley Arena when Cow supported Paul Weller) is a foam-wrapped eerily haunting song, shrouded in mysterious folksy froth. And ‘One in B’ sounded like a less funky ‘Long Train Runnin’ (‘Dooble Brothers’). This song evoked (for me) memories of joss sticks, turtle-necks and snuggling up in your Afghan, on quilted cushions, listening to Jefferson Airplane.
“Get To Luv You” sounds every bit as dippy and preppy as anything by the Partridge Family – a saccharine sweet and high-pitched jaunt. If the haunting emotions bring a tear to your eye and a slight ache to your heart, never mind, because the songs are joyful and tender enough to lighten your mood and put a shake in your hipsters. Perhaps I could have done with some keyboards to ‘flesh the sound out’ – it felt a little like a watercolor wash at times. But, nonetheless, enjoyable.
“Fragile Foundations” has lustrous autumn gold vocals from Maxine against mellow chords and feel good bass lines. ‘leaving ain’t no good when you’re misunderstood‘ she sings, while lofty harmonies provided by Ben tend to lift you to a higher place.
Gentle ‘Donovan’ style sweet sixties vibrations linger long after in your mind, even once the sweet chorus finishes…
Passionate, inspiring, folksy, Amercican style sixties soul – from this intimate and creative group. For your gentler side!