For their fourth album , slightly weird indiepoppers Cowtown seem to step up everything that makes them 'them'. The energy that’s pervaded previous albums bounces off Paranormal Romance's walls, and the colour that’s seeped through their previous works bursts out of this one in overexcited neon. On the surface, Paranormal Romance is the Cowtowniest Cowtown album there could be.
The guitar riffs, often treated to sound synthy, and the doubled ultra indie vocals, bounce in their jagged way off the relentless drums so that the energy of the album doesn’t hit you in the face so much as grab you by the shoulders and shake you for the whole 22 minutes, leaving you panting '22 minutes? Was that all?'
So why does it feel like there’s something missing? The idea of 'sameyness' is kind of overused and often a bit unfair when criticising indie bands (you mainly hear it from people who’ve missed the point of DIY indiepop), but unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid here when nearly all the songs are in the same key, have one of two drum beats, and have extremely similar riffs and structures. All these songs are individually enjoyable, and it’s easy to imagine them feeling completely fantastic in a live set interspersed with songs from their previous records. But after listening to the album as a whole, the individual songs are similar to the extent that what you get stuck in your head afterwards is a sort of amalgamation of all them rather than one particularly good and/or catchy one. The energy, so promising to begin with, loses its effect after a few songs as a result of this - the same beat can only keep you dancing for so long, and twelve times is unfortunately pushing it.
The lyrics feel a bit nothingy too, possibly contributing to that feeling of something missing a bit as well. They’re not what you’d call bad by any means, but they have a strangely strong sense of indie-ness for words that don’t feel like they mean much, like the lyrical equivalent of that dude at the party you wrongly assume is interesting because he’s got nice hair. He and Paranormal Romance certainly have their moments of 'yes this is cool', possibly even enough for you to love them for a bit if you try. But if you can’t be bothered to try, you’re not missing out on anything spectacular.
Single ‘Motivational Speaker’ feels like it epitomises the album a bit. A solid 7/10 pop hit in and of itself, it’s cool, fun, colourful with a good sense for when to build up and when to hold back, and so very nearly catchy, but feels like it lacks something to make you care about it. Like literally all these songs, it’s fun for the short burst it lasts. But this same song 12 times makes unfortunately for diminishing returns, 12 7/10s making for a perfectly enjoyable 6/10 that belongs, after a few songs, in the background.
6Nina Keen's Score