Few pop or punk bands have pulled off a successful split record quite like Squarehead and So Cow. Each band’s off-kilter style has garnered them plenty of attention (even a recluse like Morrissey caught a Squarehead gig). But on Out of Season, these Emerald Isle outfits rose to the occasion: they transformed their sounds and produced a record that stands on its own.
So Cow began as a solo project of lead singer/guitarist Brian Kelly, who expanded the band to include a bassist and drummer. The additions have transformed So Cow’s sound from prickly pop (Meaningless Friendly, So Cow) to the aggressive hard rock heard on Out of Season. Instead of relying on Kelly’s awkward charm, as on “Halcyon Days” from So Cow, Out of Season takes a more guitar-driven approach. “Waltzer” and “Laundry Service” also exemplify this change. “Waltzer”, at nearly twice the length of a typical So Cow song, is laden with ambient guitar work and muted, droning chorus interludes. “Laundry Service” sounds more like something you would hear on Warped Tour than in the back room of some Brooklyn club, with declamatory vocals and shifting rhythms. “Days From The Ninth” retains So Cow’s earlier sound: more nursery rhyme than any pop or punk track.
As for Squarehead’s side of Out of Season, the Dubliners bring a neo-punk spirit that has seen a revival in bands such as Los Campesinos! and Free Energy. Like their contemporaries, Squarehead craft melodic pop and rock songs with hand-claps and percussion beats to boot. On the lilting major-keys of “C’mon Man”, vague choruses sing about waiting around for a girl that never calls. But judging from their flippant resolve, it doesn’t seem like they’re too concerned. This playful attitude pervades on “Sicknote”, a track that is filled with the group’s boyish harmonies embedded in anthemic drum fills.
Out of Season isn’t the most innovative record from either group, but it helps both bands experiment with new sounds and different lineups. It’s unlikely the album will attract many new fans, but those who do stumble upon this delightful morsel of Irish rock will be glad they did.
Essential Tracks: “C’mon Man”, “Laundry Service”