So Cow: Meaningless Friendly
Catchiness will never be a problem for Ireland’s Brian Kelly. He’s got hooks falling out of his pockets on Meaningless Friendly, his third full length album as So Cow. Most of the 16 songs on this collection barely clear the two minute mark. Tunes like the 50’s inspired opener “Start Over,” and the reverb-drenched, Casio-driven “Shut-Eye,” will lodge in your brain for days. Kelly understands the power of unison, frequently doubling his melodies with guitar, organ and even a snare drum on the insanely sticky “Dunno.” He’s a pop classicist, capturing a particular 80’s New Wave moment, when bands like Squeeze and artists like Joe Jackson broke in the U.S. armed with nothing more than a bit of Brit attitude and a barrel full of tunefulness.
But Kelly does have a problem knowing when to stop. About halfway through the record, things begin to drag, culminating in the god-awful 7:26 of “International Waters,” a multi-part concept number, without a concept, that Kelly’s clearly not ready for. His homemade sound, too, starts to wear out the ear. Wildly out of tune lead vocals and sloppy drum fills abound and in that way, Kelly breaks faith with his predecessors who all displayed top musicianship along with their melodies. I’d love to hear Kelly with a band as great as Elvis Costello’s Attractions. On his 1980 masterpiece the 20 song Get Happy, the band defined his faux-Motown sound, and their Booker T and the MG’s inspired, everybody plays their part and nothing more aesthetic, elevated the material.
Lo-fi charms abound on Meaningless Friendly, but Kelly can do better. Let’s hope he finds some pub-vets to help with the heavy lifting and fleshes out So Cow into the healthy heifer it deserves to be.