A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Cog

When the History of Australian music is written by the mainstream pop writers, a certain band from Bondi, Sydney called Cog will be forgotten. Seeing the band play live on a lot of occasions, I can say without a doubt, they are one of Australia’s best live bands.

The star of the show without doubt was always Lucius Borich on drums. He rolled and he grooved. The energy he produced on stage, he somehow miraculous transferred over to the audience.

I remember the times when we played with Cog at the Oxford Tavern and UniBar in Wollongong. We all had to load in early as the doors to the venue would shut. (Note: The venue was normally open and entry to watch the live show was free, however when Cog came into town, the venue was turned into a concert hall.)

So we just sat around, drinking beer and watching Lucius sound check. There he is, sound checking the drums, then the guitars and then the bass. The thing that blew me away was the riffs he was playing during the guitar sound checks. At that time, the information doing the rounds on Cog was very vague.

So I had no idea that Lucius was such an accomplished instrumentalist and songwriter. That is why as a drummer he really locks in with the guitar and the bass. That is why his drums move with the peaks and valleys of each song.

No Other Way

What an album track! For an Australian band, it is a ballsy move to open an album with a 10 minute song. The rules are made to be broken and that is what Cog kept on doing with all of their releases. While all their contemporaries went to the hook immediately, Cog took their time to build up to it and when they did, it was well worth the wait. Every time I go back to this song, I keep on hearing little things that I missed with each play before.

Once upon a time albums were not made for radio. Of course, each band had a few songs that could be considered radio friendly, however, the soul of the album was always found by digging deep into the cuts. I remember reading a lot of polarising reviews of the “Sharing Space” album released in 2008, however, if you listen to “No Other Way” and not nod your head, then you must be dead.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way

I remember sitting down to learn this song and I started to break it down into movements. The above lyrics form part of the intro which I call “Movement 1 (0:00 to 2:17)”. It’s got that major chord to minor chord transition and it’s got a melodic hook that draws you in. This is Cog saying to the fans, we are still progressive, we are still mathy, however we are a touch different to what you are used too. This track has melody, it has soul and it has groove.

The subject matter is way understated and so relevant. This is Cog, not playing for a radio hit, but somehow if people stumbled onto it, they would be hooked like it was a radio hit.

Ordered by a god above
To murder in the name of love
And they’ll always claim that truth is on their side

Holding keys to a paradise
All their noise is a lullaby
For years they have ruled over you and I

I called the above, “Movement 2 (2:18 to 3.32)”. Anyone seen the documentary, “Zeitgeist”. It is great viewing. Even Robb Flynn spoke about it recently in one of his journal posts.

Lay down your guns people and start again
And stop digging this hole
Into which we’re all sliding

Screaming down a dead end track
We took a wrong turn now we’re heading back to love
Once this ship has departed
Everyone can feel at home

All invited
Humans undivided
Why not set aside the time to understand your mind

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

I call the above Movement 3 (3:33 to 6:05). People need to listen to each other and take the time to understand each other, instead of talking over each other. “Anybody Listening” from Queensryche, also invokes a similar theme of trying to find a freedom for the soul and to pay attention to what people are saying.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way
No other way

I call the above Movement 4 (6:06 to 9.55) – Hearing the melodic hook of the intro sung again over a different chord progression is brilliant.

Are You Interested?

The most famous song off “Sharing Space” is “Are You Interested?” The song embedded itself into the listeners mind and it never left. Producing something magical rarely follows formula. The vocal line of Flynn Gower drives the song.

Yes they’re making lists of people interested in this
And they’re scanning all their databases
Hunting terrorists
Yes their making lists of people interested in this
And anyone who speaks their mind is labelled anarchist

In 2008, Cog sang about how personal privacy is extinct. In 2013, the world is in uproar at the Governments spying on their own citizens.

Four Walls

I am sitting at work listening to “Four Walls” telling myself THIS IS A HIT!. You need to dig down deep into the album to check out “Four Walls” as it is track 12. It’s truly genius, a hooky track based on agoraphobia.

I’m stuck in a space
Four walls
In a room again
But I feel safe
Cause I know, where the end begins

What If

It is the 5/4 timing at the start that hooks me. Again, the vocal line drives the song. It sounds primal and angry. It is almost robotic. It is one of the shorter tracks, however it is still infectious. The song has elements of math rock in it, and in a way the message is one of hope.

What if
In the future
People
Just decided
No more leaders
Fighting to control us

This is Cog offering solutions.

What if
Life was
Just an
Illusion
Made up
By you

We don’t trust our own voice or conscience anymore. We procrastinate and we fail to make important decisions in life. We are fearful of losing what we have, so we over analyse everything to death. So we live a life, that we surround with illusions, just to make us feel better about where we are at in life. I remember this phrase, about proving that a chair exists outside of our mind.

Some things don’t seem right
Change is in sight
Some things are so wrong
Blind eyes too long

It’s like the Queensryche song, “Sign of the Times”, where they ask the question, “Can we do better than this?” The answer is we can, however we have been blinded for so long, we fail to see the wrongs.

Bird Of Feather

This song is dark. It is confrontational.You can hear the anguish in Flynn’s voice at the separation from his three year old daughter and his partner. He was away from them for eight months while he was recording the album in the U.S and then once the album was released, he had to seperate from them again to tour.

 

But I’m only trying to make it better,
Is there no other way,
No other way to go,

Bridging the gap with calling,
Don’t fade away,
Tuning my ears to the sound of your tears,
Is there no other way?

Of course she’s wondering why,
Only three years old,
Dad’s gone again,
Don’t know when,
We’ll all be back home together

Sharing Space

All the faces that we’ve learnt to love
And all the tears we cried when we opened up

I been working, dreaming, wanting something more
And I’m thinking; all this shit I’m doing, what’s it for?

I’m waiting for the day to arrive

They have been writing and touring for years and they have come a long way. They set themselves goals and then complete them. Now they are at a point in their life where they are doing some self-evaluation. They are re-assessing, asking the question why they are together, as life moves so fast, they need to take a pause to absorb it all.

All the fighting, the hurting, the bleeding, the crying
What’s it for?
All the people living, breathing, dying
Wanting more…

For some reason it reminds me of the song, “Promised Land” from Queensryche. Queensryche asks the question, what is success and what is happiness in that song. Does success equal happiness? Our whole society is based on consumption. We are all part of this system, so what’s this life for? Basically all of the ideals our society stands for is a load of crap.

Listening to Cog brings back memories of Tool. Progressive, a bit alternative, a bit rocky, a bit metally, very left of centre, quirky and artistic and in the same way that Tool could cross over with a song like Sober from their album Undertow, Cog do the same with What If?

In the end it just looks like the people that dealt with them, didn’t know what to do with them, how to market them, how to sell them to the public on a world-wide scale. Despite a hard core of die hard fans who purchased every album and went to see the show, the core never really increased.

“Sharing Space” did crossover and the band did see an increase in the fan base during that tour. Maybe they just needed that force of nature personality type, who would not take no for an answer to take them to the next level.

In a country that is infatuated with American Culture and reality TV shows like The Voice, X Factor, Got Talent and Idol, Cog was the antihero to all of this crap.

Cog’s music will endure forever.

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