Agony Shorthand

Thursday, September 18, 2003

You know how some people are always asking couples how they met? For these kindly inquisitors, all romantic beginnings set the full context for everything that followed (never mind what really happened as the couple came to truly know each other). I'm kind of the same way when it comes to music. It's mildly exhilarating to learn of individuals' discovery processes; those happenstance instances where their musical tastes experienced a tectonic shift, or when they were introduced to a band or genre that ended up setting their standards for years to come. You know; the older brother who played you the Velvet Underground for the first time; the time you stumbled into the Minutemen show; the Skip James track you downloaded because someone said you might like it. I love that shit.

I was very recently presented with a crisp compact disc version of the LAZY COWGIRLS' "Tapping The Source", the popularly-recognized best record from a truly formative rock and roll band for me. My over-involvement with them led to a real love for raw garage-oriented rock; the deep discovery of bands such as the MC5, NY DOLLS, RADIO BIRDMAN and even the SHIT DOGS; and a period in which I bought more 45s of this "sound" than anyone would consider healthy. Listening to it again inspired a torrent of insular words. The Lazy Cowgirls showed up at the right time in my life, when I was 18 years old and ready for a home-town band to rally around. In 1986 these newly-minted Los Angelinos played a bill in Santa Barbara, California with AGENT ORANGE, the MENTORS (yes! The Mentors!), AGGRESSION and at least 1 or 2 other horrid hardcore bands. I attended with hopes of hearing Agent Orange play "Bloodstains", but it was the Lazy Cowgirls who blew me clean away. These guys were the most incongruous garage-based punk band imaginable; total Indiana hicks with farm boy accents as deep as you can imagine; a balding, slightly overweight frontman who was MC5-style energy personified; and a total steamroller approach to the "live event". This approach boiled down to revving up the audience to religious levels, bashing it out for 45 minutes, then wrecking everything on the stage after an 8-minute scream through "You're Gonna Miss Me"; (always, always the set closer). Before that show I knew of the band from their debut LP "The Lazy Cowgirls", which was mostly notable because it was produced by Chris D. of the FLESH EATERS, who were a godhead band for some of my influential peers at the college radio station I was DJ-ing at (and who at this time were in the process of becoming my "favorite all-time band").

After that "tectonic shift" of a show, I saw the Lazy Cowgirls, no kidding, at least 25-30 times; every time they played in Los Angeles from 1986-1989, I and a posse of similarly-oriented drinkers with fake IDs would head down to the Anti-Club or Raji's to watch them deliver. I think there were at least two caravans up to San Francisco/Berkeley to see full weekends of shows there as well. Sick! I'd tell anyone who asked that they were my favorite current band. New records came out, the lineup changed a bunch, the band soldiered (and continues to soldier) on, and I more or less forgot about them around 1995 or so. I hear they're now a "bar rock" band a la the Stones or Divine Horsemen. Might be worth checking out one of these days for shits & giggles, right? So I listened to "Tapping the Source"; again this week, this time attempting to hear it with the ears of a man unencumbered by all the baggage collected in the previous paragraph. I have to say it still holds up! No, not in the sense that it's a life-changer, but it is still a drop-dead raw and searing 4-track punk rock record, with every single track cranked out in glorious shit-fi. "Goddamn Bottle" was the "hit", but this record also has the longtime show opener "Can't You Do Anything Right?", "Mr. Screwdriver", and my fave, "Bullshit Summer Song". If I was hearing it for the first time I'd probably call it a real good record, and would maybe pull it out for a spin every year or so. Subsequent four-on-the-floor bands such as the New Bomb Turks owe a huge debt to these guys, as it was the Cowgirls who did the Ramones/Stooges/Dolls hybrd first and certainly the best. It (strangely) sounds fantastic on CD, as well.