‘He had a tattoo under his right eye that said ‘Fuck the world!’ and I wasn’t in a position to disagree,’ Say what? ‘Anger is an energy,’ John Lydon once sang. It sure is. If you could bottle Two Cow Garage’s anger we could substitute fossil fuels like oil and petrol and run the world on indignation and rage. Brand New Flag is part scathing social commentary, part-venting, and more than partly responsible for blowing my speakers out.
The spirit of Joe Strummer lives on. Heavily influenced by bands like The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Drive-By Truckers, and The Ruts, this combustible combo from Columbus, Ohio have many concerns about our world and possess a very dark outlook. ‘Then we found out God was a knock-knock joke,’ they shriek, on Let The Boys Be The Girls, which attacks the evils of gender-stereotyping, ‘When we opened the door there was no-one there!’
They’re so bored with the U.S.A. ‘In America only the rich have their say and the rest of us just get in the way,’ the boys bemoan on Beauty In The Futility commenting on their life in the ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ digital age:
‘Are you lonely like I am? / searching for beauty in futility / constantly connected disconnection / the isolation is killing me!’
Two Cow Garage tell the tale of how they got robbed at gunpoint at a gas station on This Little Light which re-works the gospel children’s classic into a dark tale of foreboding and fear. The man with the ‘Fuck The World!’ tattoo stuck a gun into the soft skin of Shane Sweeney’s cheek and took the money he was about to use to pay for their gas. No hot air here, nothing but a crime-report; a stick-up, a real come-down, at odds with the post-gig euphoria. This is not ‘Guns On The Roof’: more pistol in the kisser, buddy.
Sitting here in our not-so-safe European home, the distance between our two nations is further than the Atlantic Ocean; it is the ‘Continental Divide’ the band refer to; as George Bernard Shaw famously said, ‘We are two nations divided by a common language.’ The way TCG use our common language might be scathing, but it’s right. They are the voice of protest. As dear, departed, Joe Strummer said: ‘Don’t write slogans, write truths.’ Brand New Flag tells it like it is. They combine a message of inclusivity with a nihilistic outlook not heard like this since the first Clash album.
‘I’m stitching up a brand new flag/ of newspapers and dirty rags/ a nation where the lonely and broken still have something to do/ a place where everyone has never fit in/ in every single place they’ve ever been/ so bring me your freaks and your fools/ coz I don’t believe in anything, I don’t believe in anything at all!’
Two Cow Garage combine their punk ideals and 1977 musical influences with their humanitarian and egalitarian ideology. They give a fuck. Who else does in 2017?
Prince would have loved their anarchic spirit. He must be spinning out in the Cosmsos, because of the corporate fat-cats and greedy bread-heads who have gone against his wishes and allowed his music to be given to the streaming companies. Fellow dead-heads, Joe Strummer and Woody Guthrie, are up in geetar-heaven, arm-in-arm, applauding this rocking-voice of protest; both wishing they could come down and jam their arses off with this kick-ass band, happy that the lineage has been transmitted to the next generation.
Two Cow Garage should get together with the amazing Californian band Gospelbeach, who wrote a stirring tribute to Mick Jones, on their woefully neglected album, Pacific Surf Line called, oddly enough, Mick Jones which celebrates one half of one of the greatest song-writing partnerships ever. That would be an interesting session.
Writing songs of power and relevance is no problem for this group of miscreants. Two Cow Garage may well turn out to be one of the most significant bands to come out of the United States in some time and ‘these troubled times’. I pledge allegiance to the Brand New Flag.