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More 'Cowbell': Sarcasm Meets Your Mother

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.

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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John Richards
John Richards is the host and producer of The Morning Show with John on 90.3 FM KEXP Seattle, and online at kexp.org. He is also KEXP's assistant program director.