During a random bout of Googling a while back I stumbled across Thomascow. This elderly Irish gent performs hauntingly warbled karaoke pastiches (ie, what sound like karaoke tracks with drum machine and keyboards added). Then he turns his songs into psychedelic clip art cheesy effects laden music videos.
Here, Thomascow turns Jim Reeves' "Bottle Take Effect" into a bleak story of alcoholism and drugs...amongst BABIES! And all without once changing his facial expression. Chilling.
It seems that when Thomascow gets on the computer he can't stop playing with the features on his editing program. The ones that he layers on top of his version of "It Ain't Me Babe" make no sense: we start in an old fashioned living room (though at least it does have a window) and then zoom in on a silhouetted fly girl breaking off some dance moves like an iPod commercial gone incredibly wrong. By which I mean, of course, incredibly better!
Not that Thomascow doesn't do originals. In fact, of all the 374 videos he has posted on-line, my favorites are his autobiographical songs. But before we get to those, we need to learn more about this mysterious C.O.W. (Citizen Of the World). Read on!
Thomascow's real name is Thomas McMullan, and he lives in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. But his life story remains an enigma. Here is Thomas' story in his own words:
Apprenticed at Harland and Wolff Belfast, as a shipwright. Sing badly, also compose, music, novels and anything that takes fancy. Served time in three prisons no good points, worked in the Hamburg shipyard Blohm and Voss, which built the Bismarck. Worked across Europe, bar work, joinery, heavy engineering, bar entertment drinking [now alcoholic] and compulsive gambler. Keep thinking oil well will come up one day. But never does. I have many women in my time and still love every one of them. Four sons, six grand children, one was born just last year [Jack 2007] I am blessed. Nowadays enjoying retirement and the experience of past youth, which hopefully is depicted in writings. Believer in no frills, clarity, sincerity & The "KISS" system, "Keep it simple stupid". I believe in the greatest degree of equality for one and all...
That says it all, and yet says nothing. Was his stint in prison the pivotal moment that lead to the writing of his first song - perhaps leading to the album "Christmas We Spent in Lubock Jail"? And when did the idea of euphoric acronyms start to take over his life: COW, KISS, SOAP (Solution Of All Problems)? And how did the KISS manifesto lead to using a variety of over-the-top video effects? These are questions perhaps best left unanswered. Maybe you can glean more from his Live Journal page.
Thomascow's signature song, "My Song" (or "COW" depending on the mood), may be one of the most balls-out anthems I've heard in a good long time. As the lyrics imply, Thomascow is everyone:
In Deutschland ich bien ein Auslander. In Mexico I'm a gringo. In Texas I'm a wetback, told to swim back to the Rio grandee. In Iceland I'm not a nice man. In Baghdad I'm an infidel. In Belfast I'm a low class and a super grass.
It all kind of makes sense when he busts out a monotone happy refrain of:
One day our world will be united and excited,
So everyone can say:
There's that name again
Says I'm an alien
There's that name, said without shame
That may all seem sweet and "peace on earth" and all (or it may strike you as strangely racist), but let us not forget that Thomascow is also a hardcore ex-con. When he really gets his Irish up, he gets dirty and drops the F-bomb repeatedly...then makes his balls dance. This one, "The Kop Shop", is NSFW.
Another Thomascow incarceration original (well, sort of, since it's actually just an adaptation of an old folk tune) is "Cancel Christmas", a look at spending the holidays in prison. Here he changes his usual lackadaisical vocal style and adds some grit. This would brighten any Christmas party!
Thomascow's video for "Oh My Papa" has the apocalyptic flair of all those underground industrial videos of the late 1980s. Is COW a fan of NON? Another unanswered question.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg (did I mention 374 videos?!). Some my other favorite videos include "Nights In White Satin", a stripper pole version of "Streets of Baltimore" (with the footage repeated for "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"), "Fairytale of New York", "Everybody Hurts" (featuring starving children and a 'Hang in there!' kitten), "El Condor Pasa", Heart of Glass, and "Eleanor Rigby".
And finally, what self respecting Irish man wouldn't put a random drum beat over that pub classic "Danny Boy"?