File next to: Flat Duo-jets, The Cramps, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes
Discerning listeners may turn a skeptical ear toward news of yet another guitar-and-drum duo. There’s a strong argument that the format is completely played out. But British duo Cowbell has expanded its instrumental arsenal for its American debut release, and far from being a one-dimensional collection of tunes with no proper bottom end, Haunted Heart is a winning collection that trades in a variety of style. There’s dark psychobilly (the title track), spooky jump blues-meets-60s garage (“None of Your Business”), and raw, stripped-down punk (“Downlow”). And those are just the first three tracks. Elsewhere, Jack Sandham and Wednesday Lyle serve up straight blues, sweet romantic ballads, Stonesy rock, girl-group flavored pop, and even a late-night soulful yakety-sax weeper. Haunted Heart suggests that Cowbell could make a solid album in any one of these myriad styles, but that variety is their fundamental goal.