At the end of “Seven 8 Twelve,” the third track on Cosades’ fairly brilliant sophomore full-length, Tusks and a Moustache, frontman Kyle Gervais repeats, “we’ve got something innn-side,” a self-assured vocal anchor amongst a sea-swirl of guitars and crashing drums. Joined by guests Dominic Lavoie and Charles Gagne with backing vocals, the refrain becomes like a mantra, a meditative tool that is both meaningless and completely the point. Finally, yet another part enters, mixed to the top of the song, and all you hear is, “We’ve got something.” The phrase is cut short.
Cosades have something here, all right, and not just an interesting counterpoint to Modest Mouse’s assertion that “we’ve got everything” on We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Where it comes from, inside or outside, even they might not know. The title of the disc alone speaks to scores of possibilities. Do we have an allusion here to Fleetwood Mac’s legendary and recently re-released Tusk, that mystery of studio rock by a band who never did make good decisions about relationships? Or do the tusks let everyone know that Cosades are a walrus, like the Beatles, with whom they share a core affinity for melody? The mustache could point to anyone from Frank Zappa, the genre-bender, to Borat, the taste-bender.
Some of the song titles and constructions here echo the latter pair, but the lyrical content is all love, both requited and not. “Boys (With Bad British Accents)” packs so much into 4:26 it’s hard to deconstruct it. Bouncy cowboy punk opens the tune, with swagger like Elvis Costello and the Attractions filtered their entire selves through a distortion pedal. Though Cosades don’t always go in for the whole verse-chorus-verse construction, “Boys” largely abides, circling around this central piece of back and forth: “Whoah, this life gets the best of me/She said, ‘It’s not that it’s good/It’s just what we got’/And I won’t go lovin’/What if you’re available one day?”
So it’s an unrequited love song, right? Well, sort of. Just when you’re content with a bridge that delivers a bright and piercing guitar break following tight stops and starts, a rhythm section solo, and a final impassioned chorus, you get the song’s alter ego. Everything drops away into an abrasive distortion swirling above Gervais singing with an acoustic guitar: “So go and love those boys with bad British accents/And worse singing voices/I’ve forgotten what my point is.” A: You’ve got to love the coupling of “voices” and “point is,” but B: What a way to turn a song on its head. Is it love or jealousy that drives our protagonist? It changes the way you view a line like, “I’d take out my guitar and play/Songs to make you want me, too.” Is it, “love me like I love you,” or “love me like you love them?”
Labor Day Records head Mark Curdo has always been drawn to these kinds of quandaries in Cosades and he told me once that Gervais listens to more music than any musician in town. That’s saying a lot. Gervais once told me that himself and maybe now I believe him. I’ll admit it: if you want get me all post-modernly geeked up, just drop a bit of meta songwriting like this: “Oo, pink we will recite/Southerners incestual [not, apparently, “incestuous”] like/Reverse the last line and it sounds right/But I just need the rhyme.” He addresses his girl and the listener at the same time because, of course, they are one and the same.