Cog are a three-piece from Sydney's Bondi Beach. The story goes drummer Lucius Borich, left for America to live, work, and pursue other musical endeavours. Nevertheless, he maintained contact with his friend and previous bandmate, Flynn Gower. The guitarist, meanwhile, had holed himself up, practicing and working on new material. The two continued to exchange riffs and ideas over long-distance. The idea for a new project had begun to germinate, and Gower, through necessity, was teaching himself to sing. As the project took on new form, Borich returned from his exile, and liking what he heard, took up his drumming role again. Thus, in 1998, Cog were formed, a new band that would eventually see Flynn Gower at the vocal helm, simultaneously handling guitar duties, with his younger brother Luke Gower, eventually joining in on bass. Cog was to be a band that would see each member seek to explore the epitome of what they loved in music and musicianship, without catering to formula, conventional song-structuring, or any template of commerciality. Will, tenacity and their ability on their instruments had brought them this far. This time, they all knew exactly what they wanted from their band. Essentially, it was the time, as the band put it, to create new resolutions. To do something different. To create music that they wanted to hear.
It's a cliche, but in this case, apt; the rest is history. Cog began to gig. They toured. They rehearsed. They wrote. They played wherever, whenever they could, and when eventually, the band took up their now-legendary residency at Sydney's Excelsior Hotel, people began to listen. A cult following began to rise up in the band's wake. The consecutive release of two EPs Just Visiting 1 & 2, recorded (amazingly well) on an 8-track, and released in Feb/Sept 2002 through Little Samurai Records, saw Cog rise to become a band who live performances were discussed with something akin to awe. Then, in March 2003, came Open Up, a cover of the John Lydon/PIL/Leftfield track, which gained high rotation radio-play on national youth network Triple J and helped spur things on. By June 2003, all of Cog's three releases were in Top 20 of the ARIA Hard Rock & Metal charts, unheard of for an independent band. Cog has somehow morphed into this act that everyone talked about, that blew audiences away night after night, that other musicians aspired to. A band, that after 6 years and a committed regimen of touring, festival appearances and international support-slots, were now perfectly positioned to record their debut album.
By now, the band had been courted by various record companies, major and independent, but nothing being offered reflected the potential of the band, or indeed, was worthy, considering what Cog had already achieved under their own steam. Nor were they convinced that any label recognized the musical vision that drove the band. And so, Cog consolidated. They had begun to write and record demos of the new material. The idea was to create something to offer a producer. Indeed, even a listen to the high level of production they achieved on their first releases, recorded unbelievably on an 8-track, one can only imagine how good these demos must have sounded, but this time the band needed to make the album that all their fans, and themselves, knew they were capable of creating. A big, lush, superior production would be required. And for that, they needed a name. A respected, big-name producer, who would lend Cog's album the kind of credence it deserved. But with nothing forthcoming, and several false starts, the band set about doing it themselves.
August 2004. Enter Sylvia Massy, an American producer who had worked with such names as Tool, REM, System of a Down and Spiderbait. Enter Aloha Management, whose stable of artists included such bands as Shihad and The Superjesus. And enter Paul Krige and his new independent label, Difrnt Music. In a whirlwind of motion, whereby everything came together at the right place, right time, the members of Cog found themselves on a plane to San Francisco, to work with Massy in Weed, California, and record their debut album. And so we're back to where we started. The New Normal, and the awkward task of describing music. Music, that thing not meant to be described, but rather experienced. Music, that is so beautiful, so grand, so lateral, that it defies genre or classification. Cog do not inspire words. They inspire thought. Movement.
It's hard to believe there are only three of them. The music works on some multi-dimensional urgent meter. It's like some kind of tidal force; the peaks'n,'troughs, the build'n release, the culmination and ultimate aural pay off. Whether it be the unconventional rhythms, the syncopated flair, the passionate conviction in Borich's drumming, or the way the kit becomes at times the lead instrument of the band, a pummelling, thundering, concussive percussion, Cog sound like no other band. Flynn Gower's guitar-work, a tasteful mixture of tight riffage and massive, open chordal sections, tempered by sparse lines and the textured approach of delays and swirling effects, give the music its colour. All the while, it's Luke's bass that brings everything together, serving as the driving pulse of the band, pumping like some vital artery beneath the music. And of course, there's the startling range, depth and melodic prowess of the elder Gower's voice. Cog don't just have hooks. They have mantras. Muscular melodies that loop and repeat in one's head. Perhaps, this writer is bias. Perhaps, but nonetheless, even after one listen, it's hard to deny that Cog are a special band. After several, is when The New Normal reveals itself as an extraordinary piece of work. Indeed, let's come right out and say it: This is nothing less than a seminal Australian album. It's undeniable. The intelligence of the music, the uncompromising musicality, the epic grandeur of the songs. This is a truly progressive sound, and not just because of any mere technical proficiency of the playing, but because each track takes the listener on its own sonic journey. And having witnessed their live shows, The New Normal is the album that captures perfectly the volume of air that gets shifted, the hypnotic sway of the music, and the sheer dynamic power of the band. It delivers. Suffice to say, it's what Cog fans have been waiting for it, and is only going to earn them more.
We started with the facts, so end with another. Cog are one of Australia's best bands. Complex, interesting, original, multi-faceted, there isn't another act that even comes close to what they do in the entire country. And here is their debut album, The New Normal. It resonates. It elevates. It's the shit, plain and simple.