NPR logo More 'Cowbell': Sarcasm Meets Your Mother

More 'Cowbell': Sarcasm Meets Your Mother


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Tuesday's Song

  • Song: "Cowbell"
  • Artist: Tapes 'n Tapes
  • CD: The Loon
  • Genre: Indie-Rock

Tapes 'n Tapes' simple pop music treads the line between stupid and clever in a way that's oddly intelligent, not to mention enormously entertaining. The band often mines familiar territory —Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Pixies — but it infuses those sounds with its own weird sense of mystery and mischief.

Tapes 'n Tapes makes danceable mischief. Keri Wiese hide caption

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Keri Wiese

Thanks to a memorable Saturday Night Live sketch, the word "cowbell" (not to mention use of the instrument itself) has become a sarcastic rallying cry in music. In "Cowbell," it represents Tapes 'n Tapes perfectly: It's sarcastic, but it sounds great, and the lyric's inscrutability makes a phrase like "I've been a better lover with your mother" jump out even more than it otherwise might have.

"Cowbell" rewards further study: It's easy to want to pick it apart and find a place for it alongside its influences. And, if nothing else, it's danceable no matter what the band is singing about — even if the subject is the listener's mom. Maybe especially so.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

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