Country Club is an independent psych rock band from Stockton, California. Formed in 2017, the band consists of members Gilbert Franco [guitar/vocals], David Castaneda [bass], Jacob Williams [guitar], Brandyn Higares [drums] and Ben Newman [keyboard/synth]. Their debut full length LP Cowboy Cult was recorded and mixed by Bay Area engineer Joe Finocchio and mastered by Eric Broyhill. It was recorded at the Panoramic House in Stinson, California, mixed in Finocchio’s home mix room and mastered by Broyhill – who has worked with the likes of Tycho, Senses Fail and Chon – at Broyhill Masters. The band’s songs were written over a two-year period of performances around California and rough live sessions recorded in a garage in Manteca, California. Influenced by The Doors, early Modest Mouse and Thee Oh Sees, the band arranges a progressive blend of power-pop, jazz and noise music, while Franco’s haunting and provocative lyrics attempt to tackle the nausea of hopeless, drunken romance, containing elements of pain, pleasure, spirituality, intoxication and a yearning for human connection. Delivered with a suave, crooning vocal, Franco often explodes belting out violent, guttural screams that create chaotic, trance-like and delicate sounds.
The album begins with “Gemini” – a poppy and hip, danceable number filled with melodic guitars and a likable style – think a little of the old school ‘60s mod meets Franz Ferdinand. “The Only Girl I Know” features a groovy guitar lick, modern sounding with a psych-rock edge and bits of a disco-funk beat in between the verses – a fabulous blend of styles here. “Kendra” showcases a fantastic arrangement of tempos, both fast and slow and a vocal style by Franco that draws from the charismatic qualities of The Doors’ Morrison. The rhythm section is top notch here, in my opinion. William’s guitar was awesome, too. “Cashmere” was one of my favorites on the entire album, simply because the style and structure was so much different from the rest of the album – not to mention it’s mostly an instrumental with the exception of Franco belting out “Cashmere” in between the frenzied time signatures between Williams, Castaneda , Higares and Newman. This one pretty much blew my mind.
Next up, “Slurring Your Speech” is a jumpy and dreamy styled, post-punk, indie pop tune that doesn’t let up from start to finish. Franco’s vocal range reminds me a bit of Morrissey on The Smith’s first album, but with the attitude of Morrison. “You Turn Me On” is the group’s shortest number and as the title suggests, it’s about getting turned on by the opposite sex. “White Light” (not to be confused with “White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground) starts off with spacious guitar riffs, but then, the band switches into high gear with a crazy fast rhythm that’s tight and in control. I think this song is about infatuation. “Sex Toy” is perhaps the band’s slowest and most trippy pop number. Newman’s keys sound great here as well as the rest of Country Club as they ramp up into a crescendo towards the end.
If the guitar effects pedal on “Window I (You)” like say, a heavy metal pedal of some kind was used, you may end up with a punk-thrash version of some Metallica B-side. But instead, there is something more complex, more brilliant going on here. I’m hearing Iggy and The Stooges, I’m hearing The Cramps, the Misfits, Danzig, a menacing version of The Pixies, but also, the old school sensibilities of the ‘60s psychedelic super groups Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf– crazy huh? Just wait till you get to “Window II (Shaman)” the music gets even more deathly horrifying, complete with dark lyrics about “coffins for your favorite people / and a coffin for you too.” Disturbing? A matter of opinion. But hey, if this is what you’re into, then I’m sure you’re going to like how Cowboy Cult ends. It would be interesting if this California quintet’s next album picks up where these last two songs left off.
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