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Two Cow Garage
III
Shelterhouse
www.twocowgarage.com


Sometimes Two Cow Garage vocalist Michah Schnabel sounds like he's inhaled a little too much of those old automobile fumes. Yep, his voice is that thrashed. But unlike Rod Stewart, whose likable rasp has become his vocal trademark, Schnabel appears to be playing with pain. If The Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser (another burnt-to-a-crisp-throat) and Schnabel ever sang a duet together, it'd be like a suicide pact. Who'll be down to a mere whisper first? (But that's another anti-fantasy scenario, for another time).

Two Cow Garage is labeled an alt.country band, but it's clearly not altogether loyal to the honky-tonks. Maybe this mislabeling can be traced back to the word "Cow" in the middle of its name; I don't know. "Camo Jacket", for instance, is driven by a Replacements-esque urgency and "Gape & Shudder" is fast 'n punky. "Epitaph", however, is one of a few places where the band works out its strong Southern rock urges. "Mediocre" stands out aurally most of all. On it, Schnabel trades his sandpaper throat for a low, confident voice. It's not quite the momentarily sexy Bob Dylan of "Lay Lady Lay", but it's a welcome change from cringing as his voice crumbles before our very ears.

This disc's highlight is one titled "No Shame." It's all about "just getting up and walking away" from a fight. These wise, non-fightin' words are placed over a jangle-y soft rocker.

For suburbanites, two cow garages are hardly the envy of most honest Americans - except for, perhaps, farmers. And while there ain't a whole lot of rural cow in these boys, this band nevertheless creates plenty of pure an honest red-blooded rock. So ride 'em, un-cowboys!

- Dan MacIntosh


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