So Cow – Lisa Marie Airplane Tour

So Cow is an irish band headlined by Brian Kelly. Their fifth album Lisa Marie Airplane Tour was released in 2016, and is pretty much a solo DIY project at this point, due to Kelly leaving the city life and moving to a small town called Spiddal in rural Ireland. As he states in his bandcamp page, this album is the soundtrack of that whole journey.

Kelly’s music has always leaned towards spunky guitar-pop with strong connections to indie and folk punk, and this is no different. His songs are at a constant medium–volume and energy wise, with surfy riffs and synths embellishments peppered in. Nothing special on its own, but the highlight of this record is definitely the lyrics and moods that detail Kelly’s experiences in his mid-life transition to country life. 

Early on in “What Makes a Man Start Gorse Fires”, we are introduced to the anxiety that permeates this album. He expresses feelings on being out of place: “three months in, still getting looks from strangers”, while musing on the reasons why: “not a hurler, neither a churchgoer / not the first clue how to tie a knot / nor a man who knows his fishing vessels”. In his quest to escape the stress of the city, he admits that moving isn’t as relaxing either.

This conflict drives the tension of the record, and later on we see the other strings. On “Something More” he talks about a search for a change, acknowledging the risks but going through it nevertheless: “if I said what i thought and it all came to naught / ah sure fuck it at least I can say I tried”.

Something to note here is Kelly’s vocals delivery through the album. It swings between completely stoic and deadpan, which along with his lyrics paints the isolation that he inevitably feels. In “Disengagement” this is highlighted by its monotone delivery as he speaks of his disconnect on the religious and work-life rituals of his neighbors. In “Batman, Tonight” he sings about his apprehension in romantic relations with hesitation in his voice. Kelly dives into Buzzcocks territory with “Wait It Out” where he talks about how technology has created a Big-brother-esque invasion of our privacy into a normal thing. The swirling riffs and harmony illustrates the paranoia that he’s feeling. Perhaps one of the impetus for his change in lifestyle

But even with all the doubt and anxious energy in Lisa Marie Airplane Tour, Kelly ends it all with a satisfying, resolute song. “Half Past” speaks about how we can work together despite our differences. “We’re all that we’ve got”, he sings with full conviction. Early on he mentioned something about not being able to tie a knot, but how this song wraps up the whole album into a great catharsis proves that that is simply not true.

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