Two Cow Garage

III

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    7
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The Columbus, OH trio's rather cheeky name flies in the face of songs that serially examine the concept of aging in a punky band like the one in which they play. It that sense and others, Two Cow Garage mirrors the Drive-By Truckers, whose intelligent lyrics likewise tackle serious subjects behind a humorous name. Little has changed in Garage's basic sound on their oddly unimaginatively titled third album III. Horns bolster one song, keyboards a few others, Slobberbone/Drams frontman Brent Best co-produces four tracks and adds guitar on one. It's a tough, tightly rocking sound that is less influenced by country than in the past, especially on the horn enhanced "Mediocre." The experimental tendencies of "Camaro," a song that starts and ends with the tuning of a radio (a sample of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" is particularly startling), brings the ragged C&W back, as singer Micah Schnabel's torn voice rips into the ballad-like tone of Steve Earle after a rough night. The album kicks off with roaring, garagey rockers, but turns introspective, more tranquil, but no less incisive in its final third. The Replacements' comparisons are still valid, but this album shows an evolution and maturity, partly due to the members becoming older and wiser, but also because the songs take more chances as they shift through changes. Apparently the group considered disbanding before this recording, but the results show they took the correct course to write about their insecurities and keep the outfit going. The result is a keeper that demands multiple spins. "Postcards and Apologies," the album's finest and final track, soberly sums up Schnabel's doubts about his life and future. Like his band, he seems intent to soldier on despite reservations. Hopefully he doesn't have second thoughts about album number four.

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