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Monday, April 10, 2006

Review: Cowboys International - The Original Sin

It's amazing what you can find for 75 cents. I've seen this album for-figging-ever in dollar bins. Ah, the smell of old moldy cardboard, second only to mothballs. Cowboys International lasted for about two years, with this 1979 LP coming in the middle. They're remembered as an electronic pop group, which is wrong and the same false designation given many bands, especially Devo for most of their career. They had a keyboard player like everyone else. It was no more important in the mix than the drummer or guitarists. I wish more reviewers were able to distinguish between pop and electronic. Later in their career they were said to be moving toward dance music, but as far as I know by then they stopped recording. Lead singer Ken Lockie went on to Dominatrix, but that's a whole other project.

Cowboys International were a great pop band in the mid-70's sense, but very updated. You won't find a finer example of post-punk neo-pop than what's on The Original Sin. Lockie singing evokes both The Human League and David Bowie. The songs take on various styles of pop and new wave, each with its own quirky personality and nice touches. The cover art is more fey than the songs within.

I'd say their contemporaries would be Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, Orange Juice and Squeeze. But not really. There's an eccentricity to the songs that makes them less commercial and therefore better. No two songs are alike but they come from the same sensibility. It's a shame records like this are left to languish.

Terry Chimes was the original drummer for The Clash, given the name Tory Crimes. He went on to play for Johnny Thunders, Generation X, Hanoi Rocks and Black Sabbath (?!). Lockie's pal Keith Levine (PIL) appears on the LP. It's said Lockie was a member of the old Sex Pistols' original gaggle of fellow travelers. Good for him (I say as I put my pointing finger in my closed mouth to make a popping sound as I snap it out on the side).


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