Album Review: Cougarship: Psychokineteletransportion

Cougarship: Psychokineteletransportion

Cougarship’s otherwise-exciting 2005 self-titled LP suffered from a lack of focus, as is too-often the case with self-produced debuts, that can only be attributed to a minor-league juggling of exorbitant inspiration. The Brooklyn-based duo of Kent Sprawling and Andy Milhouse has spent the meantime bolstering their electro-pop maturescence in support of more-illustrious but less-ingenious rockers such as Camel Craft and Ekaterina Juarez. When they played a 45-minute set of all-new material at Sydney’s Amery Park Music Festival last year, their newly cultivated finesse and the correspondent vacuum for a new album were glaring.

On their sophomore release, Psychokineteletransportion, Cougarship avoids the quirky accordion/clarinet ramblings and meandering, distended cleverness that bogged down their first album, in favor of precise, sublimely economical pop. In this downloadable decade, it’s rare that an album bears strong architecture from start to finish. And though Psychokineteletransportion doesn’t quite succeed at this, it nevertheless comes very close, playing like a well-planned meal: entrée, relevés, main course, dessert.

The healthy opening (and title track) ushers the listener in with a dreamy yet energized instrumental vamp of decadent synths, drums (which may or may not be synthetic), and bass guitar, in the same way an overture introduces the characters of a play. By the time the harmonized, chanting, delicately full vocals enter, the ears have been cleansed and warmed, happily at the threshold of whatever dimension the title suggests Cougarship wishes to take us through. It is not strict psychedelia, however, but unashamed, flowerless anthem.

Three tracks in, Psychokineteletransportion serves a light, refreshing course with “Telesport”: a bright dance of airy, poignant keyboard lines, reminiscent of by-gone era groups like Mix813 and Amathrust. It could be the album’s single, if not for the fact that Sprawling and Milhouse dig deeper in the songs to follow.

“Khaki Tags” could be the bookworm’s power ballad; steroiding “Love Me Do” the way Whitney Houston did Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Its convincingly epoch nature is perhaps the most successful of Cougarship’s new, sophisticated talents. They paint a horizon of spectacular greys, which through the piece, opens vertically to reveal shattering color. Milhouse’s lyrics develop metaphor with the focus and thoroughness of an aged poet, and with the same steadiness as Sprawling’s powerhouse down-tempo drumming (check out the fill around 3:14) and guitar work.

Psychokineteletransportion concludes with an a capella choral piece that could have been penned by Sonny Willens or Loel Baggelaar, except for the ambiguous sentimental universality of the lyrics, and a guilty-pleasure refrain. If this track occurred anywhere else in the album, it could be written off as more of the scattered, out of place, early-day Cougarship. Rather, it seems almost as though the whole record (minus a few misgiven moments) has been leading up to this prophetic moment.

Depending on which side of Cougarship’s two-faced first album they gravitated toward, fans may either love or hate this new effort. Hopefully, regardless of taste, they will all appreciate the form and fluency at the core of Psychokineteletransportion’s spaciously gorgeous, blood-pumping, pseudo-intellectual minimalist electro-teleport rock. Better albums have existed this year, but not many. It’s a good sign for bands suffering from too-many-egg-basket debuts, or anyone fearing a sophomore slump. [Available now on CD or as a limited edition ash tray with download code from Ocular Ingenuity/Actiphonic.]

12 responses to “Album Review: Cougarship: Psychokineteletransportion”

  1. Dude, are you putting me on?

  2. Dave says:

    I was a Cougarship fan before they were cool.

  3. jeremy says:

    genius.

  4. Dave says:

    I really, really love the idea of a limited-edition ash tray with download code.

  5. Tim says:

    This is the awesome.

  6. farrell fawcett says:

    Once during their tour stop in Albuquerque I helped Kent and Andy change a flat tire on their tour van behind Sonny’s Bar and Grill. they didn’t have a tire iron that fit their lugnuts. I did. We got the tire changed and then they smoked me out. Good times.

  7. LT says:

    i have always had a big crush on cougarship.

  8. swells says:

    No way! I actually used to be this band’s booking agent back when I lived in San Francisco (they were still called Chocolate Cougarship then, before the lawsuit). I made big commish off of them whenever they played the Paradise, and even got them an opening slot at the Fillmore once (for Jon Spencer). They were one of the nicest bands I’ve ever worked with, and always generous with the plus-ones.

  9. LHD says:

    I don’t know. I generally prefer the side-project stuff–Sprawling’s other band, Robot Chubby, or even Millhouse’s Sci-Fi Hair-Pie.

  10. Natasha says:

    I can’t find it on the web. Sounds like something I’d like. Would you post a link, please?

  11. Jane says:

    “…Psychokineteletransportion’s spaciously gorgeous, blood-pumping, pseudo-intellectual minimalist electro-teleport rock. ”

    Wow. What a great description! I’ve never heard this band before, but I sure can’t wait to hear them now. Thanks!

  12. John Wood says:

    they’ve been on myspace since 2006.
    myspace.com/cougarship