Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin, Recorded at Breakglass Studio in Montreal, Canada in October 2010, during the Pop Montreal festival
The cassette tape that Cousins lead singer Aaron Mangle handed us, while we loitered about the kitchenette area of Breakglass Studio in Montreal a few months ago, as Bonjay was finishing up its session, was given with a few words. Drummer Pat Ryan said, "We really wanted to put out a tape, but it sounds like shit." For any other band, these words may have been a kiss of death or dismemberment for the content held on that magnetic tape, but for this band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, they may as well have been the cherry and the whipped cream placed on the tops of the sweets that were about to be consumed. It's true that the tape doesn't sound the prettiest, but it's not the band's fault, as the songs on their side take off and leave us salivating. Popped into the tape deck of my shitty, broken car, it takes cranking the volume up to sinister levels just to get the cassette to reach audibility, creating a hiss that's thicker than an alpaca's coat in April and we don't mind a stitch, for hearing this two-some in some clean and unfussy manner would be as unfaithful to its vibe as it would be to ask them to play at a black-tie, wine-tasting fundraiser.
Cousins is a band that should never pay for any hours in a first-class recording studio, for much of the time and all of the money spent would be a serious waste. What you need to hear Mangle and Ryan at their finest, is a house party in tight quarters, where the heat's jacked up into the dreadful sweaties, a single whatever microphone on Mangle and maybe a room mic, if you need it. Crank whatever signals they're sending as loud as the crowd can handle and let them slither and shake. "Speech" is a song that shows the duo at its greatest. The lyrics are measured and heated, bounding on a pulsing streak of flames that grow and subside. The guitar and drums sound strident and will a pinch of a curl in their lips, as if they're staring a line right through you. There are the occasional wails and we get to feeling inside the way that we imagine Jerry Lee Lewis used to when he'd kicked the piano bench out from beneath his ass and fling his floppy Conan front bang this way and that. Mangle sings, "I like to hear a speech/I like to be a chief/I like to hear you speak to me/Yeah/You got yeah you got good/You got yeah you got good/Goddamn/You got yeah you got brave/You got, you got brave, well I didn't/I didn't!" and we appreciate that he's as disturbed as he is. We appreciate that we have a young band like this to believe in, one that makes you feel like you're living down by the train tracks, tooling around on dirt bikes and skateboards, drinking Mountain Dew, thinking about bad news girls and feeling that you've got an itch that you just can't scratch.
Youth Club Records