Based in Columbus, Ohio, Two Cow Garage are commonly referred to as one of the hardest working bands in the States. Certainly their name crops up repeatedly on several lists Blabber’n’Smoke subscribes to and they have a fiercely devoted following over there; when their tour bus broke down a few years ago an unsolicited fan based fundraiser quickly had them back on the road again. Despite this they remain somewhat under the popular radar especially on this side of the pond, a shame really as they are one of the best proponents of that mash up of country, punk and melodic rock that was born from the No Depression movement of the nineties. In addition they are firmly on the side of the righteous. That is they sing about the human condition, injustice, the daily struggle against the powerful and it’s ironic that Brand New Flag is unleashed just as Americans (and others) shift uneasily awaiting the new order that’s just been given the keys to The White House.
Brand New Flag is a raw album. It blasts from the speakers for most of the time. Churning melodies and amped up guitars hammer through many of the songs at times with the urgency of a Springsteen fist clencher, the clincher being Continental Distance which even has a Roy Bittan like piano break. This Little Light is a noirish account of a mugging and not a million miles away from Drive By Truckers territory while History Now could become an anthem for the Occupy movement as could the title song where they rail against the establishment singing, “I don’t believe in anything”. In addition they plant their feet firmly on the side of diversity with the life line described in the words of Let The Boys Be Girls, a defiant and proud refutation of “fitting in” as they dismiss God, schooling and military service with the defiant cry of, “we don’t need old white rich men to tell us who we can kiss goodnight”.
It’s all stirring stuff but they do let off on the throttle on a few songs. The opening song Movies is a dry as dirt “alt-country” stumble with all four band members singing about their childhood dreams while A Lullaby Of Sorts is a marvellous dissection of teenage neurosis with the narrator alarmed by a gun bearing customer at a roadside stop and pondering on the obscenity of wearing an $800 leather jacket. There’s fear and loathing on the dirge like guitar squall of I Promise which is like an internal dialogue fuelled by self doubt and harried by schizophrenic like other voices. The tune itself eventually collapses into mayhem, a deranged horn section recalling the free form jazz of Albert Ayler.
An album then that is and is not easy to listen to. It’s invigorating. An alternative state of the nation address that seeks ways to survive against the oncoming tsunami of small mindedness.