Cougars - Manhandler (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Manhandler (2004)


The eight-headed rock monster known only as Cougars has returned for a second go of it, this time with a 5 song, 6 track EP on THICK Records. These songs that make up Manhandler show both the darker and happier side of the Chicago octet, revealing both the band's sense of intensity and melodicism.

For those unfamiliar with the Cougars rock attack, it's vocals/two guitars/keyboards/bass/drums/trumpet/saxophone all thrown into a wrestling ring and turned on one another. This isn't ska. And contrary to most lazy reviewers, this isn't a Rocket From The Crypt ripoff. It's easy to say what Cougars is not. The tough part is to say what Cougars is. Here goes nothing.

The EP kicks off with the title track. An evil guitar/bass line builds and builds into the straight-ahead chorus, where the horns take the melody over the downright painful howling of Cougars' singer. As is typical with his vocals, each note bellowed sounds like he's ripping his vocal chords to shreds. This isn't screaming, it's yelling. He is yelling at you. And you have no choice but to listen, because it kicks fucking ass. It makes Helmet's Page Hamilton look like a pussy.

"Vegas Makes Her Fuck" is a faster song that is driven by heavy yet incredibly articulate drumming. Time changes abound here, and to make the song more powerful, there never really is a chorus per se - each part of the song stands alone as memorable. You'll find yourself yelling "Vegas makes her fuck / fire in the hooole!" during each listen.

The EP's mood is decidedly sinister until the final track, "Cookietown." This is the most musically upbeat song Cougars has produced to date, with a horn line that is as catchy as anything Chicago ever wrote. As the song fades out, the original opening theme of "Manhandler" crops back up in the guitar and bass, only this time in a different - major - key. It's rather ingenious, really [at least from a music nerd's standpoint].

Cougars are doing what few bands even bother to attempt nowadays - they play rock and roll. There's swagger. There's attitude. There's power. There's talent. Just from listening to this EP you can smell the whiskey on their collective breath and the aroma of stale smoke eminating from the jeans they've worn ten days in a row on tour. Can you withstand a mauling from Cougars? They're challenging you right now.

In short, it's all that the Chicago underground rock scene should be and usually isn't. Definitely recommended.

Manhandler [clip]
Vegas Makes Her Fuck [clip]
Dick Dater [clip]

Vegas Makes Her Fuck