Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I have known about Two Cow Garage (TCG) for quite a while. I have tried, on occasion, to listen to their music since they are grouped in with the Americana/alt-country genre. Their music never really stuck with me. Not to say it is bad by any means, I just never really got to the point where I got a TCG song in my head or had a strong urge to listen to them over and over.
They have been around since 2001 and have amassed quite a loyal following. They also play 200 live shows a year. Their shows are known to be very energetic and quite unforgettable. So having framed a little of their history and the fact that none of their music ever stuck with me before, makes it more amazing that I am completely hooked on Brand New Flag, the band’s seventh release. As soon as I played the first track, Movies, I was hooked. Also, immediately doubting my poor judgement by not giving TCG a chance prior to now.
The music has attitude and edge. Definitely has a good dose of that punk rock bravado and volume. Even the slower songs are played with a lot of energy and some piss and vinegar. Micah Schnabel, the lead guitarist and vocalist, has a perfect voice. It has plenty of grit and gravel, but also has melody and harmony. A perfect mix of sweet and spicy. I definitely hear a lot of the Drive By Truckers in TCG, in writing style and musical delivery. This Little Light (Track 3) is a perfect example of a song that could have been penned and performed by The Truckers. This song tells a story about Schnabel being held up at gunpoint in Houston at 3 AM in a convenience store parking lot. Schnabel took a horrifying experience and turned it into a very poignant and amazing song.
A Lullaby Of Sorts (Track 6) is another very moving song about things that are supposed to make us feel better but are a mere illusion. The first verse describes Schnabel seeing someone in a Burger King in Indiana with a gun on his hip. He states that this should make him feel safer, but it makes him feel “like shit”. The music is sparse and definitely the perfect accompaniment to the subject matter. The second verse speaks about Schnabel’s stint in a psych ward when he was a youth. Schnabel goes on to explain that the so called “treatment” and medication that he could not pronounce did not make him better. This is written as well as a Westerberg classic with very intelligent and thought provoking lyrics.
Brand New Flag deserves serious consideration as one of the top releases of 2016, maybe of the decade. Time will tell, but so far the potential is there. Again, I regret not giving TCG more of a chance earlier into their career. I can say with certainty that is won’t happen again. Without being too much of an apologist, let me say there really isn’t enough time to devote the all of my energy to all of the good stuff out there. From the bottom of my heart, let me say sorry TCG. Don’t make the same mistake I did.