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Against Me! - The Original Cowboy (Cover Artwork)

Against Me!

Against Me!: The Original CowboyThe Original Cowboy (2009)
Fat Wreck Chords

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

It might seem odd at first that Fat Wreck Chords is just now releasing Against Me!'s The Original Cowboy, a collection of demos for 2003's As the Eternal Cowboy. As it turns out, though, the record is pretty well-timed. For the ex-fans who felt burned by the slick production on 2007's New Wave and f.
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It might seem odd at first that Fat Wreck Chords is just now releasing Against Me!'s The Original Cowboy, a collection of demos for 2003's As the Eternal Cowboy. As it turns out, though, the record is pretty well-timed. For the ex-fans who felt burned by the slick production on 2007's New Wave and frontman Tom Gabel's 2008 solo EP Heart Burns, here's something grittier. For fans bummed to see drummer Warren Oakes leave the group, here's one last shot at the sun. And super-fans and newbies alike get a glorious history lesson.

Granted, the demos and the finished product don't differ too greatly. Original Cowboy was recorded, sans "Sink, Florida, Sink," as a trial run meant to help producer Rob McGregor familiarize himself with the material. "Cliché Guevara" is still positioned as the second song and "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists" is still near the end. Original Cowboy's session for "Cavalier Eternal" actually ended up on Eternal Cowboy at label head Fat Mike's request. And anyone who's been to an AM! show knows that "A Brief Yet Triumphant Intermission," renamed here as a triumphant "Introduction," makes for a good opener. For the casual fan, the differences are minimal.

But for the dedicated, Original Cowboy is a treasure. A plugged-in version of "Unsubstantiated Rumors (Are Good Enough for Me to Base My Life Upon)" similar to the one on the Sink, Florida, Sink seven-inch is available. There are little differences in phrasings, like the ending of "Rumors."

In a press release for Original Cowboy, Gabel noted that, "Listening to it today, there's a part of me that feels foolish for ever recording these songs a second time." And while these demos aren't as fully fleshed out as, say, Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska or PJ Harvey's 4-Track Demos, there's a heck of a lot of truth to that statement. Original Cowboy is overdub-free, dirty without sounding too muddled, and certainly not a mere throwaway recording. Heck, these straightforward live takes outclass the band's actual live record, Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!. Aside from some flat vocals here and there, the songs are remarkably conceived despite their rapid-fire formation. The rock-out at the end of "Clapping Hands" benefits from the grit. "Cliché Guevara," as kickass a song as it was in 2003, sounds even better with raw production, as do "Rice and Bread," "Mutiny on the Electronic Bay" and "T.S.R.". Eternal Cowboy is by no means an overproduced record, but Original Cowboy is unquestionably the better rock record, and arguably the better Against Me! album in general.

Now, I'm a super-fan. I knew I was going to like Original Cowboy before I even heard it, and Eternal Cowboy is actually my least favorite AM! full-length. So, I decided to try an experiment. See, most of you have probably already heard Eternal Cowboy. You know how the songs go. For some of you, hearing slightly different versions of those songs might sound "wrong." So I wanted to test Gabel's assertion that he felt silly for re-recording these songs by playing them for someone who wasn't familiar with Eternal Cowboy.

My girlfriend is an Against Me! fan who has never heard Eternal Cowboy, or any of the band's EPs. She has heard Reinventing Axl Rose, Searching for a Former Clarity and New Wave. She's seen the band in concert multiple times. She prefers Gabel's shouting voice over his singing voice. She is a big fan of what Tori Amos calls "audio porn" -- that is, clear vocals and discernible lyrics. She's less concerned about instrumental clarity. However, she also prefers PJ Harvey's 4-Track Demos over its studio counterpart, Rid of Me. She heard the former before the latter. She's also wicked hot and I want to make out with her like all the time.

I asked my special lady friend to listen to my copy of Original Cowboy for at least a day straight, take two days off from AM! listening, and then play Eternal Cowboy for at least a day straight. In the interest being an amateur scientist, I hypothesized that she would prefer Original Cowboy for its raw intensity, as well as the fact that she experienced that record first. On both counts, I was right. With the exception of "Slurring the Rhythms" and "Rice and Bread," she loved the demo sessions more. She was turned off by the acoustic songs, preferring the demos' ferocity. "Clapping Hands," her favorite of the demos, ended up being her least favorite on the finished album, feeling that the music sounded defanged and that Gabel's vocals strained too much towards melodrama. Were it not for "Sink, Florida, Sink," Eternal Cowboy would be irrelevant for both of us, as well as new fans.

Lest we forget, some folks, myself included, felt that Eternal Cowboy was a weak followup to Reinventing Axl Rose. Original Cowboy corrects this misstep. It isn't overcooked, nor is it sloppily thrown together. Perhaps it is like Nebraska, in that it's a beautiful accident, a collection that captures the band's ideas without fussing over them. Against Me! is going to start recording their next LP with Butch Vig soon, and while that album is expected for 2010, Original Cowboy is a compelling argument for a fall 2009 release.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Against Me! - As The Eternal CowboyAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Clash - London CallingThe Gaslight Anthem - Señor and the QueenThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundAgainst Me! - Crime as Forgiven ByDear Landlord - Dream HomesAgainst Me! - White Crosses

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
themagnetc (February 17, 2010)

i appreciate how much more raw it is. it probably would have been a better idea to release this instead of as the eternal cowboy.

TSOL (July 19, 2009)

This is by no means a bad record, but it's no improvement from Eternal Cowboy, and it's nothing new either. If you're a big fan or completionist then by all means. If not stick with Eternal Cowboy because this is missing some good songs from that album

emcde123 (July 15, 2009)

How does one review demos, a set of songs recorded in a couple of hours just so their producer can get a feel for the songs. It seems stupid and in some eyes, including my own, it make the reviewer seem like a jackass.
Also, the little experiment he has done with is girlfriend was the lamest excuse for a reason to listen to this album because the test subject had a known bias for rougher versions of songs. This just proved what was already made clear by him.This makes the reviewer look like a complete jackass again.

m1tch (July 9, 2009)

"If these versions were released on No Idea in 2003, the anarchists would luv it."

that pretty much sums it up. i like it, and would also like to see some searching demos surface for real.

score is for burritos

PoliticsOfStarving (July 9, 2009)

Why do people always seem to hate Tom Gabel's screaming on Reinventing Axl Rose?

I think it sounds very cool. Like he is continuously screaming until his voice gives out. I always wanted to be able to scream like that, but I just end up coughing.

14theroad (July 9, 2009)

I like this version of Unsubstantiated Rumors better.

SloaneDaley (July 9, 2009)

Searching is their best record to me but because I feel like it really encapsulates the feeling of the times and when was released I really felt like AM! could be that important band of my time. I'm not as sure anymore...

crackpotdemagogue (July 9, 2009)

never any good

ooooh controversial!

Neo_Reloaded (July 9, 2009)

I'm really surprised how much better I like The Original Cowboy than Eternal. I mean, I like Eternal and the songs are basically the same here, but it just feels like there's so much more energy and raw passion. I'll definitely listen to this more than Eternal in the future.

muckymuck (July 8, 2009)

This band has always been too fucking overrated and never any good.

jacknife737 (July 8, 2009)

Eh, some of the versions are interesting, i'd rather here some of the Searching demos.

seth_uber_alles (July 8, 2009)

This is interesting to hear, but As The Eternal Cowboy is way better.

Blackjaw_x (July 8, 2009)

Okay, but I'm watching you... :P

adamvms (July 8, 2009)

I liked this recording, but I can honestly say that I question anyone (ANYONE!) that likes 'Searching for a...' over the original version of this record.

I did think that the original was weak compared to 'Reinventing' at first, but subsequent listens and years have proven to me that it is an amazing record. I feel that it is their second best full length. I also believe 'New Wave' to be exponentially better than 'Searching'.

I guess you are entitled to your own opinion here, but if yours is different from the ones I expressed you are just wrong.

crackpotdemagogue (July 8, 2009)

i was complementing you, silly! don't be so paranoid... not everyone on here is out to offend and insult others at every opportunity, jeez louise!

Lars_Frederiksen (July 8, 2009)

stolen demo > original cowboy

Blackjaw_x (July 8, 2009)

I can't tell if you're being an asshole or not.

I'm not being arrogant or full of myself by saying that, it's just true. Like if I collected baseball cards and called myself a "baseball card collector", would you point it out as if I'm a dickhead or something? No. So why is my obsession with ensuring I have entire discographies of bands any different than ensuring I have entire collections of baseball cards? I said completist, not elitist.

crackpotdemagogue (July 8, 2009)

score is for Blackjaw_x and his description of himself as a:

"music library completist."

Love it.

skankbook (July 7, 2009)

I love it. Sure, we've all heard the songs before and it's missing "Sink, Florida, Sink," but it packs the intensity, urgency, and raw sound of such classics as "Goddamnit," "Maniacle Laughter," "Midwestern Songs of the Americas," and even Weezer's "Pinkerton." In fact, if it weren't for "Sink, Florida, Sink," I may never listen to "As the Eternal" ever again.

kylewagoner (July 7, 2009)

I really want to pick this up. As the Eternal Cowboy is actually my favorite AM! album, so perhaps this will blow it out of the water. Maybe. I love how short and sweet it is.

Blackjaw_x (July 7, 2009)

Though this stuff and the stolen demo is totally worthwhile:

http://snevesneve.com/am/Demos/

Blackjaw_x (July 7, 2009)

I think this release is pretty damn pointless, and I'm a music library completist.

ZombieRicardo (July 7, 2009)

Never a huge AM! fan, but I do like that song "Violence". I'll check this out though, it's really too important not to.

MattRamone, you crack me the fuck up.

Girlfriend.

SouthernLovin (July 7, 2009)

Score is for your girlfriend.

SouthernLovin (July 7, 2009)

I'm giving this record the same rating I gave Eternal Cowboy... because I like this mix even more. The guitars sound fuller, and there's less "thwack!" and more "thump!" to the drums. Something I hope will happen more now that Warren has left, God bless him.

Great record.

abracadaver (July 7, 2009)

Quite possibly the last good Against Me! record that will ever be released. How disappointing.

Tom_Delonge (July 7, 2009)

This review is a circular narrative in many ways, where it kind of sums up the human race in a time capsule

bigbuzzaldrin (July 7, 2009)

eternal cowboy is my favorite AM record. i love re-inventing but i think cowboy is hands-down better. i need to get this.

telegraphrocks (July 7, 2009)

This is obviously awesome, as The Eternal Cowboy is a fantastic record, but really I don't see I reason for this to exist. The songs have the slightest differences, and not in the more-interesting way like the Stolen Demo does.

I might pick this up somewhere down the line... I don't know.

Chadreligion (July 7, 2009)

Just got this in the mail on Baby Blue vinyl... I've heard most of this before and the grainy, rough recordings really makes me love demos that are better than the finished product.
Hopefully, we will see the rough version of A Former Clarity as well, because the demos for Holy Shit and Miami are pretty dope

score is for the baby blue!

sfbarker (July 7, 2009)

As The Eternal Cowboy is the best AM! album/album featuring Tom Gabel. True story, live with it. Reinventing Axl Rose would have been better if the screaming had featured words you could understand instead of sounding like Mike Shank in American Movie...

InThe_Evening (July 7, 2009)

I had been wondering if jelone's girlfriend prefers tom gable's shouting over his singing voice. thankfully now I know

SloaneDaley (July 7, 2009)

Cats are carnivores. They were born to eat meat. It seems cruel to try to force them to conform to your ideology.

I'm not arguing with you on that point really I wouldn't do it but the only issue is if the animal is healthy if it isn't healthy stop that shit but if it is who am I to say what you feed your cat.

Humans are born omnivores, but if I ever bcome a mom I'd be like "listen bitches you are eating what I'm cooking and you'll like it" and it'll be vegetarian. Is that fair if they want a cheeseburger? should I not have obtained the child?

lostandclowned (July 7, 2009)

If these versions were released on No Idea in 2003, the anarchists would luv it.

Lars_Frederiksen (July 7, 2009)

Eternal Cowboy was the first against me! record i really got into. its good.

mattramone (July 7, 2009)

"it is possible for a cat to as well but much more difficult."

Cats are carnivores. They were born to eat meat. It seems cruel to try to force them to conform to your ideology.

fuckmefuckyou (July 7, 2009)

I am just wondering if you get laid after this?

goodfella31 (July 7, 2009)

no one cares if your girlfriend likes this album or not.

shrapnel (July 7, 2009)

thanks for letting us know what your girlfriend thinks.

Problematiclogic (July 7, 2009)

Pointless release.

Nobody should have to pay money for demos unless they're bonus tracks or something

hooverstreet (July 7, 2009)

"For the ex-fans who felt burned by the slick production on 2007’s New Wave and frontman Tom Gabel’s 2008 solo EP Heart Burns"

Who knew Rick Rubin was writing reviews for punknews.org now??

SloaneDaley (July 7, 2009)

a dog can subsist on a careful vegetarian diet quite well, it is possible for a cat to as well but much more difficult.

hamonrye (July 7, 2009)

"it's really not healthy for your cat to have a vegan diet."

I was reading an article on a meatless diet for dogs. It was something like milk mixed with potatoes, or water mixed with potatoes, which is essentially just feeding one's dog mashed potatoes. The argument was that the Irish had done it for years during a famine.

What the fuck.

655321 (July 7, 2009)

Score is for me making it all the way through A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction before realizing the record was a 45. I suck.

banal242 (July 7, 2009)

You're supposed to compare Against Me! to Jay-Z or something.

drewshaw (July 7, 2009)

i haven't listened to this but i've got a copy on the way.
The eternal cowboy is a solid album, but i'm expecting to like this more. Reinventing axle rose was better in my opinion. I'd like them to have done a similar thing for former clarity though i doubt it.
oh well

ashtraymonument (July 7, 2009)

Eternal Cowboy is tied for my fav against me! full length with RAR. this further soldifies this. for serious.

mattramone (July 7, 2009)

My buddy Lauren and I once drunkenly wrote a list of things to say to piss off crusties, and one of the things on there was "Man, Against Me! just keeps getting better and better!"

Another was "it's really not healthy for your cat to have a vegan diet."

mikexdude (July 7, 2009)

Actually, it's the best record Against Me! will probably ever write, even though I believe Clarity is a fantastic record. Reinventing Axl Rose is awful and very difficult to listen to, and I will never understand how anyone could trick themselves into thinking it's so good.

:,( Aw... that's not true.

o, four stars this l00ser gaVE coAster a 6 and called bugs homophobes. pos3r.

R3vengeTherapy (July 7, 2009)

I enjoy this. It's not that different from Eternal Cowboy, which is, in my opinion, the better record.

Actually, it's the best record Against Me! will probably ever write, even though I believe Clarity is a fantastic record. Reinventing Axl Rose is awful and very difficult to listen to, and I will never understand how anyone could trick themselves into thinking it's so good.

Burn me at the stake, I don't care.

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