Two Cow Garage have been a staple of the Columbus, Ohio punk rock scene since the release of the first album Please Turn The Gas Back On nearly 15 years ago. Their heart on their sleeve earnestness is unmatched by many of the current midwestern punk bands making their way through adulthood in dive bars across the country. With 2013’s The Death of the Self Preservation Society, they stripped their hammond organ influenced punk rock back to the basics. Two Cow Garage’s follow up and seventh album continues in that same fashion allowing their melodies and lyrics a chance to shine through.
On Brand New Flag, lead singer Micah Schnabel shares vocal duties with bass guitarist Shane Sweeney more so than on any of their previous releases. Strong four part harmonies are filled out by guitarist Todd Farrell and drummer David Murphy throughout the release. Album opener “Movies” is a mostly accapella track about distant dreams of fame and fortune reconciled with the crushing reality of what one will never be in a society where the dollar rules. This is a common theme throughout the album’s 42 minute run time.
Schnabel’s songwriting really sticks out on this album highlighting a singer who is completely comfortable with his storytelling abilities. As a long time listener, Brand New Flag really feels like the best of Two Cow Garage. It’s clear they have found their own unique stylings where they have previously leaned on their influences a little too heavily. Schnabel even notes this in the stomping “Beauty in Futility” singing about being poor imitations of his heroes and finally finding his voice. The album mixes it up with straight-forward rockers like “History Now!” to more exploratory jams like “Shakespeare and Walt Disney.” The latter almost feeling like Green Day’s “Misery” from Warning on amphetamines.
The middle section of the album starting at “Brand New Flag” and continuing through “Let the Boys be Girls” is one of the strongest mid-sections of an album in recent memory. The scene Schnabel paints in “A Lullaby of Sorts” could come from many an alienated punk in a poor midwestern town closing the song out with the hope of a better world via a molotov cocktail thrown at Wall Street.
Underneath the detachment expressed on Brand New Flag from what adult life demands to make ends meet each week is a positivity found in acceptance of who you are. Whether Two Cow Garage is searching through the remains of late stage capitalism for an identity that wasn’t sold to you or recalling scenes from life’s indelible moments, they are delivered with an honest introspection that has found happiness in nihilism. The only wrong turns on this album come with the closing tracks where the band slows it down. This is mostly a product of how strong the previous tracks are.