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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coo Woo's British Sensibilities

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Pop music has a natural snap to it, thanks to its youthful motivations. Nobody has done it quite as winningly as the punk legends Buzzcocks, but the Milwaukee pop group Coo Woo is game to try their hand at it. Coo Woo takes on the British band's verse-chorus-verse setup with a very modern sensibility, the core still intact. That core sound struck a chord in the musical mind of a young Scott Anderson, Coo Woo guitarist/vocalist, while rooted in his native northeastern England. “I really like verse-chorus-verse,” he says of his band's mirrored writing style, which riffs off of the music he absorbed growing up in England. “If you've got a big chorus and you've got that really catchy verse, that's all you need.”

Anderson, a transplant of four years, continued writing music after moving to Milwaukee, not shying away from wearing his musical heart on his sleeve. “I'm 33 now, so I'm too young to have been first-wave Stone Roses, but I have to say I remember the second coming. I'm definitely a huge Brit-pop fan. Blur, Ash, Sleeper—that whole sound. Around that period of time in England, you just didn't listen to American bands, you know? Because it was all about British bands.”

Coo Woo is steeped in the English guitar-pop bands that Anderson adores, the bulk of their song craft zeroing in on shimmering guitars and propulsive percussion—a pretty universal language of the classic guitar-pop sound. Milwaukee's Jerome O'Callaghan plays straightforward bass lines and Paula Guenther lends her voice to create Coo Woo's quintessential octave-separated boy/girl vocals, floating like gold flecks atop the shimmer of guitars. Songs are filled with smart, snappy lyricism. Think American pop bands under the umbrella of Slumberland and Captured Tracks and even the Swedish pop group Peter Bjorn and John, and they all tie together. The band's first release, Love Exposure, has tied together a bit of global attention.

“We've gotten such a good response from blogs just from word of mouth, [and have drawn attention in] Sweden and Norway and Australia,” Anderson says. And although Love Exposure was officially released by indie Liverpool label Edils Records, the band is on the lookout for an American label.

Bouncing from song to song in a frenzied but completely engaging manner, Love Exposure is full of youthful energy and idealism, even at its most biting moments. Guitar lines crash alongside the percussion, but even at its most haphazard, it retains an awkward grace and beauty. Hoping to hone in on the youthful nature of his music, Anderson in turn wants to play to a younger crowd. “I think one thing we've got going for us in England is that there are a ton of young kids going to see bands because you can drink at a bar at age 16,” he says. “When I go to a show here, it'll just be a bunch of 30-year-old people and I'm thinking, 'Kids would probably love this if they had a chance to see it.' I think that's a huge problem.

“Some of my favorite bands in Milwaukee are bands that have just started and just turned 21 and all,” Anderson continues. “We play in Riverwest as much as we possibly can simply because it's a younger crowd for shows, and I'd really like to do more all-ages shows. We might have more of a chance with people who are slightly younger, because guitar-pop is slightly more in vogue right now than it has been, you know?”

Coo Woo plays Art Bar on Friday, May 4, and at the DMZ Lounge on Saturday, May 5. Love Exposure is available via Bandcamp.
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