When Micah Schnabel sings of waking up to the wreckage of a morning after, surrounded by brimming ashtrays and girls with "blood-filled eyes” and some stranger lying on the floor, you tend to believe his is the voice of harrowing experience. The dark imagery of "Your Humble Narrator” is just the beginning of a 13-song cycle that deals with the rigors of growing up wrong, substance abuse and the wasting of youth, troubled relationships and crushing heartbreak. "The sun has a way of making us pay for our revelry-filled nights,” he rasps mournfully on the opening track of "Speaking in Cursive,” the fourth album from the Columbus, Ohio-based Two Cow Garage, and the listener can’t help but feel his pain. "Being in a band that’s been together nine years now, when we wrote that first record (‘Please Turn the Gas Back On’), I was 17 years old,” singer-guitarist Schnabel said in a recent phone interview with The Oklahoman. "And coming from a small town (Bucyrus, Ohio), it started out on the country end of things. And we’ve just been growing, being on the road as much as we are and meeting the people we have, and I don’t know, just growing up and maturing. It’s definitely a much more mature record. "I’m just trying to make the writing stronger, and as far as the sound, it’s just an evolution. I don’t think we’ve made any crazy steps but just an evolution, just as we get older, how it changes.” Soundwise, the one-time quartet of Schnabel, bassist-vocalist Shane Sweeney, guitarist Chris Flint and drummer Cody Smith has grown to a quintet with the addition of Andy Schell on keyboards, adding a new depth and richness to the band’s instrumental attack. Once resembling a cross between the raw punk looseness of the early Replacements and the alt-country rock of Uncle Tupelo, Two Cow Garage has dropped much of the rural twang in favor of straight-ahead, rough-edged guitar rock. The punk attitude is still intact, however, and the lyrics are darker than ever on barroom blasters such as "Brass Ring” and the angry "Bastards and Bridesmaids,” which should grab the local audience’s attention when Schnabel growls: "Well Oklahoma City was just leather jackets and noise / No blood spilled, no switchblades, just weak and scared little boys / Hidden behind some long dead forgotten scene / And we washed them clean.” Actually, the city in the song could be Anytown, U.S.A. Oklahoma City just seems to fit the rhythm and melody. "I don’t know, I tend to lean towards dark,” Schnabel said. "I try to dig deeper and get past the boy-girl kind of stuff. Maybe not trying to get past it, but trying to say it in a different way and show things in a different light.” And Schnabel is the first to admit that most of his lyrics are based on the hard facts of his own life. "I don’t know how hard and fast it is, but it becomes kind of the norm, you know? It’s just the way our life is. "We’re in a band, in a different town every night. It’s kind of the way things go. You kind of end up livin’ in bars. And when you’re livin’ in bars and when you’re playin’ shows, you show up, and people are there to see you, and they kind of want the party, you know what I mean?” And Schnabel promises the people will get what they want at a Two Cow Garage show. "It’s pretty blistering, you know,” he said. "About 45 minutes of energy.”
Two Cow Garage
→What: Opening for Tumbledown.
→With: Andrew Anderson, John Moreland, the Dead Armadillos. →Where: The Conservatory, 8911 N Western. →When: 6:30 tonight. →Information: www.conservatoryokc.com.