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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 He is also KEXP's assistant program director.