On July 27, 2010, Hornbuckle Records is releasing Sometimes You’ve Gotta Fight to Get a Bit of Peace, the brand-new, highly anticipated album by Austin, TX one-man indie rock wrecking crew The Cocker Spaniels. Over three years in the making, this new CD, a masterpiece with a whopping 18 songs – each and every one a soon-to-be classic – could well be the one that blasts head Spaniel and master musician Sean Padilla into the stratosphere, alongside such not-dissimilar artists such as TV on the Radio and indie legends Guided By Voices.
A while back, i emailed Sean to ask how his record was coming. I knew he’d been working on it for a long time and was getting anxious to hear it, being a massive fan of his last CD, the brilliantly-titled Withstand the Whatnot. He sent me a slew of tracks to listen to. This was probably a year or more ago, and he’s been tweaking it ever since, including having it professionally mixed and mastered. I have to say, the album in the form that i heard was insanely good. Then several months ago he sent me a new version, which sounded even better. It is unimaginable to me that the final version could improve upon Sean’s already masterful-sounding recordings and great mixes, and yet all indications are that it will in fact be exactly that.
Now you must understand here that The Cocker Spaniels is not Steely Dan. Their albums are not pristine, cold, surgical affairs devoid of soul. Although the sound is always crisp and clear, with everything in its right place spatially and frequency-wise, the heart and soul of this band is decidedly lo-fi. Not lo-fi in the sense that they were recorded on crappy boomboxes, or even four-track cassette recorders. Rather, it’s the DIY spirit of the things that recall the absolute greatest Guided By Voices records such as Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes. When you hear this music, you don’t think of some guys in a basement with a couple of crappy Radio Shack dynamic mics going into a consumer-grade stereo tape deck. What you hear is this: a young man with more talent than you can ever possibly imagine anyone on Earth having, absolutely driven (i mean truly, awesomely hell-bent for leather here) to make some damn incredible, original music, almost entirely by himself, a la early Todd Rundgren, or Stevie Wonder. And that frenetic energy is captured perfectly. No, the sound itself is actually pretty spectacular, especially considering that he did it all on his own in various apartments and spaces, without any sort of budget or outside producers.
If you don’t believe me, go and grab one of the mp3 versions he has up on his site for free. Right now, my personal favorite is a tossup between “The Overeducated Underclass” and “Cousin Ben.” As with almost all of his tunes, they are catchy; nearly overloaded with hooks that keep going for days (earworm alert!), featuring intimate-yet-intensely-fun lyrics straight out of real life and brimming with just the right kind and amount of crazy irony, laugh-out-loud stories, and all the joy, anger, and sadness to be found in the spectrum of the human condition, all performed with a passionate zeal and fluidly-jagged precision that will simply leave you reeling. Listen for some serious Frank Zappa chops in his playing, too. The guy can play circles around just about anyone, on virtually any instrument. (Prince who?) While you’re at it, grab some songs off his last record, since it’s out of print (for now), and a fantastic piece of work in its own right.
And yesterday, he started taking preorders, at a mere $12 a pop (that includes shipping anywhere in the U.S. – overseas orders are also available). Although he’s almost certainly sold enough already, the first
150 orders come with a special handmade “making of” zine which is sure to be a serious collector’s item when this guy hits the Big Leagues, which should happen at some point in the months following the aforementioned 27/07/10 official release date. (So get in on this one and hope for the best, because that one little limited-edition bonus is gonna be worth some serious cash on eBay someday, and you don’t wanna have to mope about how you had the chance to cash in on that but you didn’t take it.) Anyway, even if you aren’t one of the lucky 150 , you’re gonna get some seriously amazing independent music out of the deal.
(And for what it’s worth, i hear his cookies are freaking crazy-making.)