Friday, May 11, 2012

Mercyland -- No Feet on the Cowling

As some of you know, I'm currently student teaching in an eighth grade social studies classroom. One of my kids is, like, really obsessed with the Beatles. She will only read books about the Beatles. Her English Lit teacher suggested she read Catcher in the Rye and she said she couldn't, because Mark David Chapman was obsessed with it. I tried to tap into her enthusiasm about the Beatles, but since it's clear that I'm not a hardcore fan, she's dismissed me as Someone With Whom to Talk About the Beatles. One of the other teachers mentioned that she had been obsessed with the Beatles in middle school. Shortly after the school day ended, she received an e-mail from my student filled with dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of Beatles .gifs from tumblr interspersed with questions like "Isn't Paul the best????? Look at his pouty face! <3 <3 <3"

If Cowboy Mouth had had a legion of tumblrs dedicated to them when I was in middle school, I would totally have sent my teachers e-mails just like that one.

Instead, I had messageboards, interviews, a small but tight-knit fan community, and liner notes with which to build my own Cowboy Mouth mythology.

One of my favorite recordings by the band is a song called "Tears Toward Heaven," a cover from a little-known punk band from Athens, Georgia called Mercyland.

Tears Toward Heaven by Cowboy Mouth on Grooveshark

You may, however, be familiar with the work of Mercyland's bassist and lead singer, Dave Barbe. He's been the producer for most of the Drive By Truckers' discography, and played bass in Bob Mould's pre-Husker Du band Sugar.

I tracked the song down to a compilation album issued by Rykodisc, called Spillage. It was a bunch of isolated recordings by the band, and the transfer from cassette to CD produced a muddy sound. It was my introduction to punk and I loved every muted drumbeat.

On a Google whim a few months ago, I found an interview by Dave Barbe on Aquarium Drunkard. After an offer from Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth to re-mix and re-release their only full-length, No Feet on the Cowling, and some presumed creative differences, Barbe went ahead and re-mixed the album himself.

The results is, not surprisingly, even more stunning Spillage. Every growl and lick is brought to the front here. Mercyland's combination of in-your-face-swagger and late-80s Athens jangle-pop creates a melodic version of hardcore punk that is hard to resist. I'm really glad that anyone with an Internet connection can access some truly fantastic movement that would otherwise be swept to the corners of a used CD store.

Mercyland -- Built to Spill on Amazon, Bandcamp


  1. I realize this is an 8-year-old post, but I found it while searching for Mercyland on Google. Just a quick point - per your statement that Barbe "...played bass in Bob Mould's pre-Husker Du band Sugar." Sugar was post-Husker Du. Cheers!

    1. Late is better than never! Thanks for writing in and thank you for the correction!

      Was literally just typing out Barbe's name; he produced the upcoming Dexateens live album. Check out the Adobe & Teardrops if you're a podcast person!