White Cowbell Oklahoma White Cowbell Oklahoma

Making fun of hicks is fun, right? In fact, poking fun at hillbillies is one of the last bastions of public humiliation at any one socio-economic group's expense left, right up there with crack whore humour. I guess it's because nobody actually thinks that they're the ones on the receiving end of these jokes that makes it okay. That's where these two bands come in. Calgary's Agriculture Club's musical take on "the white trash joke" is in that ol' galloping train beat cow punk style. These guys claim to be taking country music way over the top with heaps of distortion, speed and power. In actual fact, the guitars are as thin and brittle as their tired lyrics about guns and screwing Daisy Duke. The guy from Huevos Rancheros is in this band and let's all pray he sticks to his main gig. From Toronto comes White Cowbell Oklahoma, who are from the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, "jam it out with as many guys as you can fit on stage" school of rock. These guys have about 20 people in the band at any given time and members include Colonel Sanders, a Southern cop and a preacher. Nine guitars and two drummers propel these heavy boogie tunes that have a bit of a Live at the Filmore East guitar harmony thing going on. The grooves of "Bell Are On the Run" are kind of tasty and "Lone Star Love In" actually kicks some serious rump. I guess the message here is that a joke that's skilfully told is usually funnier than a half-assed one. (Meter, Box 368, 44010816 Macleod Trail, SE Calgary, AB T2J 5N8, www.meterreords.com; Slick Monkey, www.whitecowbell.com) -Craig Daniels American Analog Set Know By Heart On AAS's fourth full-length album (fifth including their singles compilation), the Austin, TX, outfit continue to hone their warm keyboard pop. The Velvet Underground-inspired band successfully work with gently rolling melodies and hushed vocals, driven along by sparse slow-mo grooves and soft guitar accompaniment. While the band have successfully tightened their songs into single idea pop compositions, their only missteps find them occasionally bringing the guitars up in the mix and overly complicating their beautifully simple arrangements. In most cases the band know what works, from the cosy sweetness of the title track to the motoric rhythms of "Like Foxes Through Fences" to the vibes and bass driven "Gone to Earth." Bliss on disc now available in bite-sized doses. (Tiger Style, 149 Wooster St., 4th Flr., NY, NY 10012, 212 777-8056, www.tigerstylerecords.com) -Ian Danzig Attomik With accolades by many a folk in the old countries, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it becomes more apparent (and suspicious) that the reason Attomik's Kraut-like consonant band name was created was to please those lovers of generic, metallic, tone-deaf pop rock. There is nothing of major stimulus to be found here, just well thought out harmonies and lyrics that meet the concerns of all, from social commentary to compromising and accepting the idiosyncrasies of another. Other than that, there is no rocket science with this disc, even if the name suggests otherwise. (Independent)