So Cow

The Long Con

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Brian Kelly, the leader of So Cow, seems to have something of a multiple musical personality, or at the very least, that's how it sounds on the third proper album from the group, 2014's The Long Con. Prior to this set, Kelly played all the instruments himself on So Cow's recordings through the miracle of multi-tracking, but for the Long Con sessions, the singer and guitarist had a real live rhythm section helping him out -- bassist Jonny White and drummer Peter O'Shea -- as well as a producer with a dash of name recognition, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof. The Long Con suggests the presence of two Brian Kellys; one writes snappy and cleverly witty pop tunes with a punky bite like "Barry Richardson," "The Other One," "To Be Confirmed," and "Sugar Factory," and at his best he sounds as if he could have been the lost member of the Flying Nun Records family, only transplanted to Ireland. However, another Brian Kelly pops up here and there, and he's a self-styled guitar hero who likes to reel off long, noisy, feedback-reinforced solos while the rest of the band percolates behind him; this Kelly makes his presence felt on numbers like "I Want Out" and "Say Hello." The latter Brian Kelly does bring some interesting things to The Long Con, but the truth is the poppy guy is ultimately more fun to be around, mainly because the pop guy's lyrics are more eloquent than the guitarist's solos, and it's worth noting the mostly or entirely instrumental numbers feel an awful lot longer than their hookier lyric-laden counterparts, even though they're roughly the same length in most instances. Kelly is a gifted songwriter, a strong and impassioned singer, and a guy with a rough but potent guitar attack, but he still seems to be working out how to make all these gifts work at once, and on The Long Con the whole isn't quite the same as the sum of the parts, though many of the parts are well worth having on hand.

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