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Collection of Irish multi-instrumentalist's self-released CDs and singles, compiled and remastered by Bob Weston, is full of sing-along hooks and scruffy charm.
Nine times outta 10, "noise pop" is a misnomer. Guitars sound like crap? No discernible emotional content? Pass the bowl, maan-- that's not music for a pop audience, that's a self-esteem boost for guys who like to hit on tortured girls with Cramps tattoos in record shops. I mean, sure: Plenty of bands, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, really do make noise-drenched pop music. It's just that you can find plenty more bands who make noise-drenched art music, records that reaffirm their buyers' superiority over the unsophisticated rabble (often, without actually being superior). Now, don't get me wrong-- I like a lotta that stuff, too!-- but if you think your average lo-fi/shitgaze scenesters have anything to say to the broader 21st Century Breakdown-buying, "American Idol"-watching public, you've been living in Greenpoint too long. And you should sign me to your label.
I aim to sum up something so neatly that my friend Muiris will go, 'Ah, nicely said,'" So Cow main man Brian Kelly told the blog Hi-Fi Popcorn last year. "I like the idea of someone listening and going, 'Ah, that's what I thought!" If you've ever been young and unlucky in love, the Irish multi-instrumentalist has a song that will strike exactly that kind of emotional chord. Like Television Personalities or the Clean at their most engaging, Kelly plays rickety guitar-pop that sounds homemade without feeling insular. So Cow compiles the best of Kelly's singles and self-released CDs so far, remastered by underground rock luminary Bob Weston. Sing-along hooks and scruffy charm abound.
First, though, you'll have to tear yourself away from the best few songs. "Shackleton" would be equally perfect for Death Cab fans' mixtapes, Belle and Sebastian fans' weddings, and closing-credit sequences for Chuck Palahniuk film adapations; here Kelly updates the ol' love-songs-about-love-songs trope (cf. the Divine Comedy's "Perfect Lovesong", the Lucksmiths' "Sunlight in a Jar", Elton John's "Your Song") as near-perfectly imperfect organ-and-drum-machine swoon-pop: "One day I'll write the song you require/ Until then, la la la." He turns out to be similarly adept at extended adolescence on the off-kilter "Halcyon Days", at droney bitching about his life's lack of resemblance to Hollywood romance on "Casablanca", and at tender non sequiturson Pinkerton-style acoustic finale "To-Do List" ("a one, a two, a one to-do list..."). You might not know Korean pop star Moon Geun Young, but if you can't relate to the eponymous So Cow song's red-lining tale of an awkward breakup beneath a smiling billboard, well-- such sweet sorrow, I guess.