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Music Review: Against Me! – The Original Cowboy

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Gainsville punk residents Against Me! recently dropped a special release for all of their fans.  The band once again reunited with the independent punk record label Fat Wreck Chords to put out The Original Cowboy, an eight song, never before heard demo album.  Available on CD and LP, this release give the fans a pre-game, younger Against Me! attempt, something as an enthusiast I was happy they chose to share.

Recorded in summer of 2003, these demos are what was to become the band’s second full length release and the Fat Wreck Chords debut titled As The Eternal Cowboy.  The demo was actually recorded for the producers of the album just to make sure they were familiar with the songs as Against Me! was looking to make an all analog recording.  Since the band was to record at a different studio (Memphis’ Ardent Studios) they wanted to have something to help keep what they were looking to create on their final version.

Minus the track “Sink, Florida, Sink” all of the other songs from As The Eternal Cowboy appear on the demo release but not in the same order. The combined opening track “A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction / Cliché Guevarra” even if not fully produced carries enough energy to get you past that grainy sound.  It’s interesting to hear these first takes on songs that later turned into a must have album for many punk rockers out there.

“Mutiny On The Electronic Bay” actually sounded better than the studio mastered version as did “T.S.R.”  Perhaps it was the lack of overdubbing or just the pure integrity of the track making it that much more enjoyable. 

The beginning of “Cavalier Eternal” cracked me up with the comedic prelude to the song with the boys of Against Me! goofing around briefly just as it appears on the mastered release.  The sincere acoustic demo of the song, to me, should have been just put in with the final release.  It sounded a lot better under-processed than that of which appears on As The Eternal Cowboy.

Closing the demo is another combined track “You Look Like I Need A Drink / Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists” a track guaranteed to get all the diehard Against Me! disciples to go insane upon hearing it regardless of the take.  After hearing this song, and album for that matter, I wondered why the band even bothered to travel to Memphis in the first place.

The demos may very well just be a money maker for Against Me! and Fat Wreck Chords but honestly, who cares?  It was a good listen and I am happy to add it to my Against Me! collection.  Tom Gabel actually had this to say about the demos, “Recorded and mixed in only a couple of hours, The Original Cowboy was only meant to be a trial run, but, listening to it today, there’s a part of me that feels foolish for ever recording these songs a second time.”  I could not agree anymore Mr. Gabel.  These demos sound better than most fully mastered stuff out there.

About Brian McConville