Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: Mom & Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
An Horse may be grammatically challenged, but singer-guitarist Kate Cooper and drummer Damon Cox sure know how to re-purpose two generations of girl-powered indie pop. The Australian duo's second disc recalls the trance-y college rock of Throwing Muses, the crisp strummings of Tegan and Sara, the Portlandia pump of Sleater-Kinney. Cooper's emotionally shadowy lyrics burrow into the personal tensions we try to forget but can't escape - from "Airport Death," about a botched meet-cute while traveling, to "Swallow the Sea," where her boyfriend's bedroom becomes a watery tomb.
A simple assembly is all it takes for An Horse to rip up a well-aimed song: an amped guitar, a minimal drum kit, and the appropriate pedal to lay siege with an overpowering amount of noise. The Australian duo started on the right track with Rearrange Beds, a modest debut that established them as slightly one-note but with enough brawn and lyrical aptitude to justify the Tegan & Sara seal of approval. Not to mention, the inclusion of chorus bangers Postcards and Camp Out, two left-field hits so good that you’d be willing to spend the cash to take them off the inevitable career pothole of product placement.
An Horse frontwoman Kate Cooper spends the band's second album, Walls, struggling to connect to other people and watching other lives as they fall apart. On "Swallow the Sea" she hits on a possible explanation: "Maybe it's our convict blood," posits the refrain, a clever and poignant nod to Cooper's and bandmate Damon Cox's Australian heritage. Perhaps that's not the most scientific rationale for why the duo's songs are full of so much heartache and dissolution, but it's the best one An Horse offer, unless you count the time in "Not Mine" where Cooper admits, "That's enough 'Twin Peaks' for one night." These moments of self-awareness and cheek stick out because Cooper spends much of Walls navel-gazing and mired in helplessness.
Rearrange Beds wasn't exactly the most spectacular or innovative debut in indie rock history, but it introduced An Horse as an immensely likable band, getting plenty of mileage out of sheer, nervy energy, an old-fashioned allegiance to a certain loud-and-proud indie/punk ethos, and the scrappy interplay between Damon Cox's fiery drumming, Kate Cooper's churning guitar work, and her breathlessly ardent (and endearingly accented) vocals. (The duo's fresh-faced, spunky blond looks didn't hurt either. ) Well, the first words out of Cooper's mouth on Walls are as follows: "I have nothing new to tell you since the last time I wrote.
When An Horse drop in a fleeting reference to Twin Peaks early into Walls, their second full-length album, it somehow makes perfect sense, despite the acres of formal and emotional distance between David Lynch’s surreal psychodramas and the Australian duo’s sturdy, tuneful guitar pop songs. Upon the band’s debut, first with a promising EP called Not Really Scared in 2008 and then with the equally solid long-player Rearrange Beds in 2009, they carried with them the slight novelty of evoking the straightforward virtues of ‘90s alternative-era guitar rock in an age awash in the expectation that its most creative guitar bands would incorporate bold, arty (and usually electronic) elements into their music. Name-checking Twin Peaks might register as a far less appropriate nod to the past than the earlier lyrical claim, “like that good Hole album, I can live through this” (from “Camp Out”, a track featured on both of their previous recordings), but it re-establishes a link to the band’s era-specific setting nonetheless.
Do you have to know a band's backstory for them to make sense? No, but in the case of An Horse, it doesn't hurt. "Base-less and bass-less" is the liner notes pun, since the Australian guitar/drum duo wrote their sophomore effort by email between Melbourne and Montreal. Walls thus has a polished demo feel, with its lyrics informed by vocalist/guitarist/Canadian migrant Kate Cooper's sense of distance from family, friends, and collaborator/drummer Damon Cox.