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Longtime denizens of the Minneapolis rock scene, the Cows are one of America's great degenerate punk rock bands. Starting off as near-total incompetents, they have become more technically polished musicians during the '90s, but their white-hot noise rock has not been tamed one bit. In many ways, the Cows remain as gloriously messy, primitive, and exciting as they were the day they started. Formed in the mid-'80s by idiosyncratic lead singer Shannon Selberg, the Cows appropriated the hardcore guitar blur that characterized fellow-Twin Citians Hüsker Dü, but stripped away any and all concessions to melodies, hooks, riffs -- essentially anything that remotely resembled pop. What they offered was a blazing wall of distortion that was punk rock at its crudest; a feral racket that sounded as if the guitars were being played with metal files. Above the din was Selberg, free-associating surreal vignettes about, well, God knows what, but his squealing, shrieking, and general lunacy provided the bizarre, often engaging, focus. He plays trumpet, too -- well, not so much plays as blasts a note or two when he's tired of ranting. After the release of their first album in 1987, the Cows were roundly derided as a talentless, tasteless joke (a charge that would be leveled a few years later against Babes in Toyland). However, they've stayed true to their anti-commercial stance and punk roots, releasing a handful of weird, loud, gleefully unhinged records that seem to get better (i.e., more focused and less obtuse) and retain the band's devotion to mania.
© John Dougan /TiVo
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