Cowtown – Paranormal Romance [The Audacious Art Experiment/Hot Salvation]

When I say that Cowtown‘s fourth album Paranormal Romance is breathlessly, dizzyingly frantic, I mean it: there are 12 tracks here and they’re all done and dusted inside 24 minutes. Two of them, opener ‘Paranormal Romance Theme’ and ‘Captain Planet’ barely break half a minute, but where the sort-of title track is but a couple of riffs thrown together (as if that’s ever been less than brilliant), ‘Captain Planet’ is somehow a fully fleshed out song that just happens to be blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short. ‘Clock In’ takes the opener’s riffs and turns them into a mission statement, singer Jonathan Nash’s stuttering yells that he’s “Got to get to work” a mini manifesto for their turbo pop.

It’s followed by one half of the lead double a-side single ‘Castleman’ which is built around Hilary Knott’s circular key-bassline that gives it a real propulsion. Its flipside, the similarly named ‘Castle Greyscale’ appears later but pulls a similar trick. It’s stripped right back to pounding drums, choppy guitars and relentless bass. Each track is ruthlessly tight to ensure that there’s nothing superfluous. ‘Motivational Speaker’ is even about exactly that, Nash urging that we “Keep it to the point” and all the while warning that “There isn’t an easy way out”.

The record’s polished to a sheen but not to the detriment of the hooks. Although there’s nothing here as deliriously catchy as ‘Nightbeats’ from previous record Dudes vs Bad Dudes, which was one of those songs that you couldn’t believe wasn’t a lost Devo song, it’s all boiled down to the absolute essentials. It’s a super concentrated Cowtown stock. You could take flawless pop punk DNA from any given second on Paranormal Romance. Their watchword for this album is economy (or “econo” as the press release would have it). Everything they do is steeped in DIY traditions: they play house parties, they record at friends’ studios, everything happens for a reason, nothing is less than essential. That’s why it’s less than half an hour long without being too short. Cowtown are incapable of wasting time in their music. Everything is here to add to the small, perfectly formed whole. A wonderful expression of fluorescent punk.

Paranormal Romance is released on 19/08/2016 on The Audacious Art Experiment and Hot Salvation.


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