Haunted Heart

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

On their third album, U.K. roots rockers Cowbell heartily reaffirm their status as the duo that refuses to sound like a duo. Of course, it's worth noting that on 2017's Haunted Heart, guitarist and singer Jack Sandham and drummer and vocalist Wednesday Lyle have brought in a few ringers to handle keyboards, horns, and backing vocals, and Jack even adds a few keyboard overdubs of his own. But Cowbell are clearly less interested in flash production than in making their songs work as well as possible, and instead of aiming for a White Stripes-style primitivism, Sandham and Lyle are here to serve their melodies, and they do that very well indeed. Haunted Heart is full of top-shelf rock & roll tunes, as Cowbell make with a dance-friendly swagger on numbers like "Doom Train," "What Am I Supposed to Do?," and "Stop Breaking Your Own Heart," and they can get cool and moody on "Something's Gotta Give" and "Neon Blue." Both Sandham and Lyle are capable vocalists, and Jack's guitar work is just buzzy enough to confirm his garage rock bona fides while making room for his subtle but effective work as a soloist. Elsewhere, Lyle knows just when, where, and how to give the tunes the kick they need, and she reinforces the tunes with a strong but flexible touch. Haunted Heart is a poppier effort than Cowbell's first two albums, but they haven't changed much in terms of fundamentals; these tracks sound like they benefited from some extra time in the studio and a bit more window dressing from their guest players, but at the core this band is still having a straight-ahead rock & roll party, and anyone who digs the big beat is invited. Perhaps Cowbell are breaking the rules for a two-piece rock band, or maybe they just don't care, but Haunted Heart is solid and satisfying stuff, and it will get your feet moving no matter how many people are on the disc or in the room.

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