Tag Archives: Cowpunk

Chip & Tony Kinman: Sounds Like Music

The musical adventures of punk icons and cowpunk reactionaries

Chip and Tony Kinman’s first band, the Dils, offered political anthems that resonated with the late-70s punk rock scene of their adopted San Francisco. A move to Los Angeles found the brothers increasingly disaffected from the growing aggressiveness of punk, and after settling into Austin, they developed the singular mix of pop punk, new wave and country that was Rank and File. Where the Dils had adopted the requisite punk sounds and styles of their times, Rank and File sounded like nothing else then extant. There was a maverick quality that was mindful of earlier country-rock pioneers, but ever the rebels, the band evolved into power chords and a more heavily produced drum sound by their third and final album. The brothers next formed the industrial techno-based Blackbird, mixing guitars and electronica (and a reworking of the Dils “Class War”) for a run of three albums. Then, just as everyone’s memories of Rank and File began to fade, the Kinmans returned to Americana with the campfire-ready western songs of Cowboy Nation.

In the wake of Tony Kinman’s passing last year, his brother Chip assembled this collection of twenty-two previously unreleased tracks from their archives. The revelation of this collection is the fluidity of the duo’s musical identities, with the pair often changing bands before they fully consecrated a new direction. What was rendered in public releases as discrete groups is shown here to be more of a continuum, as a 1978 take of “Rank and File” shows off the song’s punk rock genesis, and the arch vocal tone of the Dils threads into the Blackbirds’ buzzy “Me Too.” There’s a brawny riff hefted from “Louie, Louie” into “Candy,” Beach Boys sunshine buried in the muddy “She’s Real Gone,” noisy wistfulness in a modern arrangement of “Old Paint,” and delicacy and tenderness in a cover of Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl.” As a collection, the material highlights the borderless world in which the Kinman’s made music, and for fans of their many-flavored bands, this provides a bittersweet reminder of their ever-changing sounds and restless musical souls. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Trainwreck Riders: The Perch

trainwreckriders_theperchCowpunk revival: punk rock meets country waltz

This San Francisco trio travels the same circles as lo-fi minimalists Two Gallants, but the Riders country leanings take them closer to 1980s bands like Blood on the Saddle, Rank and File, the Meat Puppets, and Replacements. The album opens with thrashing rhythm guitar and drums, but by track two the throbbing bass is accompanied by melodically picked hooks. By track three the vocals take on a country twang, and on track four there’s lap steel. The band-written songs are filled with heartbreaks that won’t let go, frustrated misunderstandings, and late-night drunks, and the music is rendered as strung-out ballads, cowpunk waltzes and amped-up two-steps. Most of the songs stare into unfading memories of past emotional train wrecks, and even when there’s an inkling of change, such as the wished-for dissolution of “Livin’ Daylight,” it’s viewed with trepidation. The band retains their guitar, bass and drums punk-rock urgency even as guests add dobro, fiddle and accordion, and the high edginess of Pete Frauenfelder’s vocals makes the lamentation all the more powerful. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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