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The Surreal McCoys

The Howl & The Growl – 2015 (Across the Aisle)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by The Surreal McCoys

The Surreal McCoys are a rowdy bunch, and whatever inference isn't discerned from their handle is quickly affirmed by their music. "Some call us Johnny Clash. Some call us Cow Punk. Some call us Vintage Roots Rock-Roll. Call us what you will; just don't call us timid," they assert by way of self-description, and it's but impossible to jump to any other conclusion after even the briefest encounter. Their first major placement on the national charts, "$10 Hooker in a $5 Town" bore a title that more or less summed up their sentiment, but it's the comparisons to others - Lucero, The Replacements, and Drive-By Truckers - that best reference their mindset.

The band's second album, "The Howl & The Growl," reaffirms that stance in no uncertain terms. Opening track "You Can't Afford It" comes across like an otherwise unimaginable mesh of Hank III and Aerosmith, but that pales next to the remarkable fusion of Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin that's imagined with "Whole Lotta Fulsom." It not only requires a double take, but a repeat hearing to soak up all it to its fullest. Raucous, rocking and relentless, The Surreal McCoys leave no amplifier unturned or ears un-detached.

There are moments of respite, and given their declared fondness for Gram Parsons, that's hardly surprising. Still, their insurgent sound takes precedent, which makes any notion alluding to wimpiness or wearisome emotion all but unimaginable. By the time they wind their way to the final two entries, the oppressive "Lust Vigilantes (The Ballad of Razor Girl)" and the serendipitous sing along "Talkin' Messianic Paranoid Agitpop Blues," there's no doubt as to The Surreal McCoy's overall intents. They not only upset the cart, but demolish it entirely.