The Business, Cowboy Indian Bear subvert musical norms


Kansas-based and pop-indie band Cowboy Indian Bear will be playing a show on Wednesda at Beauty Bar with Shortwave Party and Ronguer. (Photo courtesy of Cowboy Indian Bear)

Daniel Munoz

Editor’s note: This is a weekly series showcasing the best live music of the coming week.


The Business has become a career for singer Micky Fitz.

Since starting the punk band in 1979, Fitz has toured the world, penned a soccer anthem (“England 5-Germany 1”) and influenced an entire generation of punk rockers including Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. But the longevity of his underground success was anything but calculated. “I’m not sure that 30 years ago I even knew what the word ‘decade’ meant, let alone three of them,” he explained in a 2010 interview with the magazine Innocent Words.

Nonetheless, the last three decades have been kind to The Business, who first rose to fame as a part of the late 1970s “Oi!” punk movement. Oi was an effort to rebel against the pretentiousness of England’s music scene at the time by uniting England’s young punk-rock plebeians under one genre and subculture. Yet, even as the movement’s glory days fade into memory, Fitz has stayed true to its working-class spirit.

But Oi isn’t all beer, football and good times. In an interview with The Guardian, Oi! punk pioneer Garry Bushell once called it “without a doubt, the most misunderstood genre in history.” Part of the confusion is due to the genre’s being co-opted by far-right fans, whose racism was projected by the British media onto unwitting Oi! bands.

Despite being the skinhead’s soundtrack of choice, the music of The Business and their contemporaries was never racist. But this fact didn’t stop journalist Stuart Maconie from describing Oi! as “punk’s stunted idiot half-brother, musically primitive and politically unsavory, with its close links to far-right groups.”

With so much controversy surrounding them, The Business are a band you have to hear for yourself. You alone will have to decide whether lyrics like “drinking and driving is so much fun,” meant to be tongue-in-cheek, are morally offensive or mosh-worthy. Perhaps they’re both. After all, the aging, anarchic Fitz, still able to draw a crowd of teenagers to shows, is living proof that punk has room for paradox.


The difference between good and bad indie pop is roughly the difference between cute and cutesy. Kansas quartet Cowboy Indian Bear inhabit the strange world in between the two, where sugary vocal harmonies and glittering glockenspiels share space with feedback-drenched guitar sprawl. Imagine a more adventurous version of Freelance Whales and you’ll come close.

Fastidiously tasteful listeners will find plenty to be offended by in the band’s sappier songs, like the ultra-cutesy “Please Be Kind To All Your Ghosts.”

Pop proles, on the other hand, may balk at the sonic experimentalism of “Madeline” and “Mathematicians/Colour,” two standout tracks from Cowboy Indian Bear’s 2010 debut, Each Other All The Time.

But who cares if they can’t please everybody? Cowboy Indian Bear, despite their shortcomings, have made music that’s sure to subvert the expectations of indie aesthetes and lowbrow pop lovers alike.

Now they just need to rewrite their official bio, which is about as indulgent and overwrought as they come: “Take a step closer and you’ll see the ache and ecstasy of the human condition posited into every crevice.” At least the band is better at pop than at public relations.