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Cowboys International
The Backwards Life Of Romeo
Pnuma Recordings
www.cowboysinternational.com


Think about how you feel when you hear the song "Downtown" by Petula Clark. That's the feeling I get from this album, at least on one level, maybe others. I guess I'll wring them out as I go along.

"Downtown", a song I really never cared for, or even had any modicum of concern for while growing up, has somehow managed to maintain some semblance of relevance to me. I always thought it was this dull and lifeless song that they frequently played at my local Skate City that managed to take all of the fun, fast rock music, and slow it down. I was usually racing around, weaving through people, and nothing could deaden the whole affair like that song. God, it was like it would never end. But, I didn't go to the skating rink much after grade school, and the song basically faded from memory.

That is, until I received a dreadful phone call from one of my good high school friends. His mom had committed suicide with apparently no explanation. Her wake was a gut-wrenching affair. A beautiful descendent of a minor figure of Czech royalty, she lived a rather lower-class life here in the states as the wife and mother of U.S. servicemen. She was always such a practical joker and prankster, so vivacious and funny that it was hard to fathom that she, of all people, would just decide, so unceremoniously, to end it all. And during the slide show of her life, they played that song: her favorite song, which so completely described the highlights of her daily life that I couldn't treat it with such disdain anymore. I still can't listen to it, though. Not after that.

From the start with "Strawberries", Cowboys International captures that happy go-lucky feel (and darker undercurrent) of Clark's "Downtown." I never heard Cowboys' only other recording from the late '70s, but it feels as anachronistic as anything else I would expect to hear from that time, and the first track even sounds like a contemporary of Clark's classic song. They've been billed as New Wave pioneers, but this sounds like much more of a proto-New Wave sound than I had expected. Not disco and not punk, but sort of an emotionally subdued and remote form of music that I can see eventually morphing into the lofty exploits of Depeche Mode. "Escape" is the only track that gets an immediate >>| out of me, but I can easily listen to the rest of the album, even during those parts where the lead singer seems to be searching for a key to sing in. This is one of those uncommon albums where every song seems to be simultaneously up and down beat; hopeful, but all too aware of reality just the same.

Just like the rest of us…

-JD

Track Listing:
1. Strawberries
2. Escape
3. The Backwards Life of Romeo
4. Hold on me
5. Don't Hesitate
6. Imaginary Number
7. Angelina
8. Silent Sky
9. Ready Steady Go
10. Matter of Time
11. One Way Pendulum
12. Something About You
13. Here With You


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Mike Doughty



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