Initially seeking an antidote to a perceived over earnestness amongst the Leeds post-hardcore scene they called home; and formed out of a desire to fill LS6 residential basements with party starting punk rock, Cowtown have outlasted those early peers and sweaty basement hangouts to spend a decade as one of the strongest pulses to circulate the city’s DIY community’s beating heart. Simply getting better with age, the ebullient trio return following three cult full-lengths — most recently 2013’s Dudes vs Bad Dudes on Sheffield DIY label Audacious Art Experiment — with new track Castle Greyscale.
Jonathan Nash (guitar/vox.), Hilary Knott (synth/vox.) and David Shields (drums) encapsulate everything that makes them so continually vital in under three short minutes. Serrated guitar hooks cut through the air with razor sharp precision; sharp, glottal vocals ricochet off a marauding low-end that’s part Vice City soundtrack, part Devo-gone-disco; no second feels wasted, no element superfluous. Cowtown deal in tight, lean, joyous post-punk for our times.
“Castle Greyscale concerns my relationship with a nasty Brutalist building I’d been working in for a number of years” says Jonathan, who divides his time between the band and other projects including drumming for Hookworms and dual percussion, repeato-rockers Nope. “I gradually became aware over time that this building was a pretty bleak example of Brutalist architecture — that I normally love — and was having a negative effect my personality. Being a self-conscious sort I thought it best to gloss over the serious nature of the lyrics with a snappy He-Man inspired title in the hope that the themes would go undetected by my generally more upbeat bandmates.”
The accompanying video — created by Ben Owen — sets the track against the backdrop of a hand disco, five-fingered grooving set against a restless neon glare. Owens bought the 80’s school disco set himself with the intention to make an installation in an abandoned florist. “The hand disco idea came from watching Cowtown at a show on the Southbank balcony and I kept imagining visuals which conveyed a more intimate almost selfish enjoyment” he says. “Maybe it’s connected to feeling smug about seeing great bands in small spaces.”
Ultimately a triumph of durability amidst a broader UK scene that feels increasingly breathless, Cowtown’s sound grows ever more defiant with each passing a year, their shows — as anyone who saw their recent nationwide tour with Deerhoof can attest — a celebration of music making sans the surface level aspiration and over-the-shoulder trend watching of bands who’ve lasted a fraction of their existence. “We’re still the same old dorks out for adventure and good times,” Nash says. “We’re not exactly cool, in fact we’re through being cool, but we love playing together and our friendship is beyond blood brother tight so it’s unlikely we’ll stop unless we run out of ideas or our limbs/organs/mind pack in on us.”