I BELIEVE IT was a Sonoran philosopher who once proposed that "Consistency's a virtue/Except when it's abused." Which applies in big steaming mouthfuls to Hollywood heroes the Lazy Cowgirls, who've made a consistent punk rock sound for as long as I can recall. Equal parts Stones 'n' Standells, Dolls 'n' Dead Boys, they do abuse, but just your ears, per vocalist and founder Pat Todd's specific instructions.
So on the umpteenth Cowgirls' album Todd & Co. keep things straightforward. Oh, there are some interesting twists for longtime fans. There's a delightful/insightful track-by-track annotation penned by Todd, and it's always a treat when a rocker pulls back the veil as to his lyrical inspirations. The notes for "Rank Outsider" in particular are refreshingly inspiring (particularly for the punk genre): "Faith's hard to come by, and harder to keep. People keep getting written off everyday by the same people who loved and worshipped them the day before. But the cream rises..." A few acoustic numbers pepper the set list as well, notably "Goodnight and Goodbye" which, with its witty wordplay and bottleneck riffery, effectively marries two of Todd's obsessions (Dylan and mid-period Stones). Still, when you show up for a Lazy Cowgirls set you expect to have your teeth knocked out, and between Todd's foghorn blare and his band's full-tilt roar, it's always a good idea to book a dental appointment for the next day. Call the Cowgirls traditionalists without no pause. -- Fred Mills
IT'S SAFE TO say that with only a handful of free jazz proponents operating in Tucson, the local improv scene, as it were, isn't going to be notching the same level of international attention that, say, Chicago and Zurich regularly reap. But there are aficionados here just the same, willing and able to blow out rooms and venues with their teeth-rattling skronk simply because for them, if you clear the head, then you free the mind -- and you know what follows from that.
So Cortex Bomb, who mines the intersections of jazz, hard rock, punk and even cinematic soundscapes with the feral intensity of someone who's been lost in the wild for a week, munching on jimson weed and practicing his Bowie knife carving skills, brings that free aesthetic right to the table and passes out big steaming portions. At times the group's dizzying darts seems depth-defying. One minute you encounter a cooly-rendered blend of traditional sax-driven honk 'n' swing, the next a swan-dive into sampladelic, hip-hop-fueled electronica, the next a metallic hardcore guitar roar, and the next some outrageous Prog-surf fusion. With 30 songs here, that's a lot of hat-changing. But you never get the feeling that anyone's faking it or even dabbling in genres for the sake of acting out. Cortex Bomb clearly digs being in the eye of the hurricane. And the group relishes the art of song-titling, too, ranging from the evocative ("Paul Shaffer Auto-Erotic Vacuum Cleaner Exit Wound") and the punful ("Knives In White Satan") to the brutal ("3000 Strangers Who Got AIDS From Eazy E") and frankly inscrutable ("6 x 1023 of Gary Colemans"). Hey, instrumental music SHOULD be fun! Reviewers in the past have rightly pegged a litany of influences: Melvins, John Zorn, Peter Brotzmann, King Crimson, Boredoms, Ennio Morricone, Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman. But as with life, it's the sum and not the equation that counts, and when it's all said and done, the cumulative effect of Cortex Bomb, ahem, adds up. Now pardon me, I must be going. I think my ass just blew off. -- Fred Mills
IN THE LATE '60s, Muddy Waters' Chess label occasionally subjected him to recordings which bastardized his sound in an effort to cash in on the Stones' reverence of him, most blatantly exhibited on 1969's rash Electric Mud. Waters in concert, though, remained the real thing, as proved by this coupling of two 1971 college circuit concerts. Waters here has yet to fall into the bleating vocals of his later years, and his version of "Mannish Boy" is considerably cockier than the popular version he contributed to the band's documentary The Last Waltz. Other classics -- "Honey Bee," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Crawlin' Kingsnake" and "Got My Mojo Working" -- work just as well. Blues novices will find Lost Tapes a fine introduction to the bluesman, while completists will consider it a revelatory glimpse of how well he performed when first juggling blues and rock audiences. -- Dave McElfresh