Looking for relief from the Pandemic Blues? A local band has the perfect medicine for you.
Cowbell Superstar, a punk/glam rock group from New Hope, Pennsylvania, has just released a seven-song EP, filled with energetic and cheeky tunes, guaranteed to break up the boredom. The original music might even motivate you to move, to help shed that couch potato weight.
Titled “Cowbell Superstar,” it can be heard via numerous platforms including Amazon, Soundcloud, and YouTube, and will be released on CD later in August.
Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist (and New Hope resident) Timm Mulhern, the band also boasts Vivian Noir III on bass, guitarist Denny Gracey, and Johnny Zabo on drums.
In addition to the EP, the quartet is working with noted rock photographer Franco Frassetti on a live set to be released on YouTube as well as the band’s Facebook page later this month.
“It’s our first professionally done video, and Franco says he hasn’t seen or heard anything else like us, so he’s doing this for free,” Mulhern says.
“Our look is reminiscent of early ’70s glam rock, which was to me, the most enlightening time in rock, when the presentation was as important as the music,” he adds. “For us, it’s like taking Broadway to the rock arena, campy and fun and colorful.”
Their sound echoes David Bowie, the Sweet and T. Rex, and also the New York Dolls (but with better musicianship). In addition, Mulhern gives a nod to early and melodic punk rock, with “short, to-the-point but poignant songs.”
Having seen Cowbell Superstar rock out in the tiny Bordentown venue of Randy Now’s Man Cave, I can attest that the band is vigorous and tight and very visual, outfitted in ’70s glam, from feather boas to funky hats, to bell bottoms and sequined platform soles. Mulhern himself seems to have been born for the stage: He is so naturally entertaining and musical.
By the way, he does all this playing and singing and strutting while missing his left forearm, which was lost in a shark attack years ago.
On stage, Mulhern employs a custom-made bejeweled hook, gleaming and totally glam. (For a deeper dive into Mulhern’s adjustment to musical life after the accident, as well as a history of the group, see the May 2, 2018, U.S. 1 article.)
As for the new album, it’s a collection of hard-hitting, likable gems. Listen for big swashbuckling guitar chords, clever leads, and a muscular rhythm section. Mulhern has an agile and powerful voice, especially on songs like “She’s Alright” and “Top of the Mountain.”
Thanks to Mulhern’s skills in his own New Hope-based Left Hook Studio, it’s a well-crafted recording. There are layers of crisp sounds with a few synthesizers and special effects, like the police sirens in “Bad Feelin’” and squeaky bed springs in “S.L.U.T.” And yes, there is cowbell.
The songs are fun and animated and sometimes outrageous. “Real Girl,” the single from the EP, is an ode to a flesh and blood lady friend, not something vinyl you might order online. (Check out the line “she’s sweet, and she secretes.”)
“A lot of my songs aren’t about real life, they’re more about fantasy, so I often just make up these things — I’m just being funny,” Mulhern says. “I also picture myself on stage, and think about how the words will come across to the audience. I’m not into hidden meanings that people can delve into: I’m looking for maximum impact.”
“We’re sending ‘Real Girl’ out all over the world,” he says, adding that it’s already had some positive attention in Australia.
Giving kudos to Noir, one of the band’s original members, Mulhern says, “One of the things that keeps me enthused is knowing that Cowbell Superstar is actually going somewhere. A lot of that has to do with Viv’s ingenuity and perseverance.”
For Mulhern, who grew up in Yardley, polishing and recording the seven songs was a way to get his life back on track in the soul-crushing early months of 2020. He admits to moping around his home the first weeks of the “stay home/stay safe” pandemic order, then got motivated.
Left Hook was vacant, so he decided to use the time and space to create for himself.
“To be honest with you, I had days (at the beginning of the lockdown) when I couldn’t scrape myself off the floor,” he says. “Everything dried up for the studio, clients didn’t want to be here, and I really didn’t want to have anyone in here either.”
“So I picked myself up and started doing something, and once I get into something (like making music), 12 hours can go by and I won’t even know it,” Mulhern says. “When you’re back into it, the momentum gets you going, creative juices start flowing, and you forget about the outside world.”
A CD and live performance video will be released later this month. www.facebook.com/CowbellSuperstar