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Cougars: Pillow Talk (Go Kart Records)

Written by David Lichius

There is something to be said for listening to the nonsensical rants of a crazy person. Whether it’s taking in the hilarious outbursts of your local campus lunatic or the completely logical viewpoints of Ann Coulter, people just tend to perk up and pay attention when a nut job starts yapping. On the other hand, when someone is pontificating on any given subject and making points that you totally agree on, there is a higher tendency for you to tune that person out.

Take that logic and apply it to music. Unless a band really strikes a chord with you, the chances of you taking time to actually listen attentively to what the vocalist is singing is rather slim. However, when some wailing banshee shrieks and flails around the stage, the interest goes up. We want to know just what in the hell just came out of her mouth. Call it the “David Yow Effect” (Yow being the maniacal frontman for the Jesus Lizard). Yow’s vocal style came straight out of the Nick Cave Birthday Party–era school of vocal training. Yow couldn’t sing to save his life; his lyrics were drunken, nonsensical gibberish. They were also frequently hilarious.

Say hello to Matthew Irie, vocalist for the Chicago octet Cougars. Currently eight people strong, the Cougars put forth sounds that are an amalgamation of Shellac, the aforementioned Jesus Lizard, and Rocket From the Crypt. While Irie doesn’t reach the levels of Yow’s onstage pseudo-psychosis, his vocals come damn near close. With a stage presence that resembles that of a vaudeville confidence man, Irie is always smiling, standing in front with a mile-wide grin and a hand extended, inviting you to step right into the world of the Cougars.

Opening with “Toxic Fox Syndrome,” the Cougars break in with an off-kilter, mid-tempo barrage while Irie unloads the with a vocal salvo of: “I can’t see shit from here/let’s have a/let’s have another drink.” As posted on their MySpace.com page, the Cougars are “a rock band making rock music.” A more accurate description would be “a rock band making drunken rock music,” for it is this drunken, manic energy that drives Pillow Talk throughout.

However, Pillow Talk would not reach this level of infection if not for the horn section of Jeff Vidmont and Mark Beening. Their contribution to this record is the spoon that stirs Pillow Talk all together. To not get sucked in by this CD could be telltale evidence of a serious case of the buzzkills. Cougars are a band to be devoured whole, a band that will infuse your soul with the best reason to get a band tattoo since Rocket From the Crypt. Without an ounce of second thought, the Cougars’ second LP is one the best rock records of this or any year.

RIYL: Blue Meanies, Rocket From the Crypt, The Jesus Lizard

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