All My Friends Are Dead to Me
(Not on Label)
Indie rock is alive and well in the modern day, sort of. For a lot of us, the styles of indie and alternative rock we loved in decades past have fallen out of public favor when regarding the new folks doing it. It’s not to say that what’s hip now is without merit, and it’s not to say that the stuff that worked in the ’90s doesn’t work today: in fact, quite the contrary. Liverpool rock band COW wear their influences on their sleeves and they do it with a confidence earned through superb songwriting and a potent mix of bitterness and longing channeled through muscular musicianship.
COW are not a particularly happy band: songs such as the EP’s namesake and “Sick and Tired of Being Lonely” imply right in their titles a desperate sadness that only proves more hopelessly bleak when considering the lyrical topics at hand. “All My Friends Are Dead to Me” is nearly amusing in how petty it initially comes across: “All my friends are dead to me / they’ve all got families / and I’ve got no one” can certainly be taken one way, but considering the situation where everyone who you could loosely call a friend has people who are ultimately more important to them than you and you don’t have that company that’ll always be there is heartbreaking. The song’s not necessarily outwardly depressive in its sound either: the anthemic chorus is just slightly cheeky, like someone attempting to mask their pain by sloppily patching up leaks of pain with humor. “Sick and Tired of Being Lonely” is a continuation of the meditation on isolation introduced by the title track that directly acknowledges and wrestles with suicidal thoughts: “Yeah I really started thinking about dying again / it really started playing on my mind, my friend / it really started fucking up my long term goals”. The mask is peeled back further on this one: the tone more somber, the melody more melancholy, and lacking in an eruptive, truly cathartic emotional release. It sits with its sadness, consistently, because it never really goes away.
“A Blank Canvas for Weirdness” is a Queens of the Stone Age song. Not literally: Homme did not write it, but he might as well have. Down from the song’s structure and sound, to even the vocal inflections and song title, it’s got QOTSA written all over it. This isn’t really a bad thing though: there are worse bands to emulate and the band don’t prove themselves inferior in the stoner rock wheelhouse. It feels a bit out of place here, but taken in isolation, it’s a strong track.
Eight minute closer “Happy Birthday” steals the show though, featuring one of the noisiest, loudest, longest, and most evocative guitar solos of all last year, equal to the best from bands such as Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill. It’s a five minute long soul-wrenching cry of agony forcibly smashing its way through emotional repression: chaotic, messy, and beautiful.
Write a QOTSA song, as long it’s a good QOTSA song. Channel Mascis and Martsch, as long you can equal them on the axe. All My Friends Are Dead to Me incites a visceral, emotional response, and that never goes out of style.
Favorite tracks: “All My Friends Are Dead to Me”, “Happy Birthday”
Rating: Strongly Recommended