Record Review: Cowboys International – Revisited [part 2]

cowboys-international-aftermathuk7a“Afternath” was one of the four singles pulled from the album, and is figured here in an exceptionally brief 2:17 single mix. The disco urgency of the rhythm section played well juxtaposed against the escalating main riff. The effects of Bowie’s “Low” album on the mind of Ken Lockie was probably no more evident than on this track, with its left-field invention and considerable pop-craft juxtaposed against the spartan economy of the tune’s running time. “Low” showed that brevity is often the soul of wit, and it’s good to hear that someone else had taken this to heart as we closed out the seventies and had begun staking a claim for the eighties. Alas, by 1983, the tide had turned against inventive  pop of this stripe.

The odd sound out here was definitely the bold statement of “Wish,” where the refrain of “I wish for nothing” was aided by the modal guitar figure by Keith Levene snaking through the number. Moroder was hinted at with the fast BMP waveforms cutting a jagged figure through the song’s middle eight. The tune’s comparatively enormous 4:29 running time makes it sound like an extended 12″ version sitting among the brief snippets of art pop that constitute this compilation.

The B-side of “Aftermath” was the striking “Future Noise,” with its almost funky, r+b vibe. Lockie added a very Bowiesque sax here, as he was wont to do. That same sax also showed up on the single “Today.” The production here by Lockie himself, was full of startling touches. None moreso than the lush glissandos of harp running through the song like few other discs of its time. Only the single version of Roxy Music’s “Angel Eyes” dared to go there contemporaneously. Lockie nicely met the dignified drama of the arrangement with his yearning vocal, which was right on the money.

cowboys international nothingdoingUK7+flexiBoth sides of the “Nothing Doing” b/w “Millions” were added with the B-side ironically sequenced first. “Millions” was the track here most redolent of “Low,” thought the vibe of that album’s first side holds sway over this entire body of work from Cowboys International, though in the best way possible. The lyrical focus here is one time that Lockie was skirting the edge of Bowie’s brief for “Low” as he proffered an abstract examination of how objects can impact emotional states. Like half of the songs here, the influence of not just Bowie but also disco, with emphasis on the song’s rhythm section, can be readily felt.

“Nothing Doing” also enmeshed that same disco rhythm section with perky technopop for a hybrid that seemed to show more nuance and sophistication than the crude disco/synthpop gene splicing going on in the [far more popular] smash “Funkytown.”

Finally, the pair of “Too Much Too Little” and “Pointed Shoes” ended the program with a nod back to the swinging sixties. The violins vying with the synths in the former, attained a  hint of The Left Banke while the wailing harmonica predominating in “Pointed Shoes” gave a Stones-like spin to a song that actually reminded me of XTC’s “Burning With Optimism’s Flames.”

Almost the entire “Original Sin” album has been compiled here, but “The “No” Song” was the odd one out. Almost all of the 7″ A/B sides were also featured here, with the exception of the flexidisc version of “Many Times” included with the “Nothing Doing” 7″ on clear flexi. The alternate version, “Many Times [revised]” does in fact feature here. This disc is al almost complete collection of every Cowboys International track released. It offers a glimpse of a creative songwriter of the time engaging a who’s who of Post-Punk sidemen [Terry Chimes, Keith Levene, Marco Pironi, Paul Simon] to realize a finely etched pop vision that combines art rock with pop nous into a sandwich liberally seasoned with disco.

If anything can be said to resemble it, it brings to mind for me an album that came down the pike a few years later than this one. “Jerky Versions Of The Dream” by Howard Devoto. That album had represented an uncharacteristically lighter touch than Magazine brought to the table in the past. In fact, many “Dream’s” songs were written for a mooted female singer before Devoto took it upon himself to make a solo album of them. With “Revisited,” Leckie offered a body of work that perhaps pointed the way back to the earlier Magazine albums [particularly “The Correct Use of Soap”] albeit couched in a less brooding lyrical presence reflective of the Devoto solo album. Either way, fans of art rock and pop would rarely have the sort of gift that Lockie released going forward. In just a few years, the freewheeling experimental streak that underscored the sometimes Enoesque pop here would be paved over with white soul concrete; sonic brutalism of another kind.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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5 Responses to Record Review: Cowboys International – Revisited [part 2]

  1. Echorich says:

    I can’t say anything more than, “yeah man, I love that you get it!” (in a very hazy hippy sort of voice) Monk…Lockie definitely took up the challenge that Bowie put forward on Low. Here was an opportunity to make truly new modern music, modern Rock, modern Pop…New Wave. That you spotted the same attempt in the music of Magazine and Devoto makes me feel kinda warm inside. Both understood the best aspects of Art Rock and where it should go in the New Wave. There is one song on Original Sin that always sounded like Bowie song he never got around to recording and that was Here Comes A Saturday. It even has a Bowie-like fade out.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Hmmm! Too true. I forgot to note the resemblance of “Saturday” to the early Bowie canon. Kind of a “Hunky Dory” vibe if I do say so. Lockie also had a love for pop that shone through all he did with this band. No matter how he strayed into the left field with his arrangements and sonics, he managed to marry it to a solid grasp of pop that prevented the material from wallowing in any sort of pretension.

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  2. SimonH says:

    After reading these posts the CD is now on my Xmas list….not sure how I missed it before.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – It’s easy to see how. Lockie put it out in 2003 on his own. Distribution must have been scattershot at best. I was aware of it before I bought it, but only did buy it when attending a 2006 record show where it was in the bins in front of me. A rare sighting! You should also get “The Backwards Life Of Romeo” too, while you’re at it. I can’t decide whether it was material recorded in the early-mid 80s or contemporaneously; a good sign! Pneuma Records [Lockie himself] has them both in his Amazon store. That,s the only way to buy these; apart from third party, with huge markup. The Lockie websites are dormant now.

      A proviso; much, if not all of these tracks were vinyl rips. I have not listened with headphones to the whole album, but many cuts had vinyl anomalies. A few sounded perfect, and the cover of “Revisited” was clearly a web JPG ill-suited for print. “The Backwards Life Of Romeo” is obviously from a master tape.

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  3. SimonH says:

    Thanks Monk, suspected it may be vinyl sourced, oh well. Have ordered from Amazon on my parents’ behalf – that’s how we do Christmas:)

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