Kowtow Popof
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Kowtow Popof

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End of Greatness

It would be lovely if musicians took themselves a little less seriously. Too many singers, songwriters, and the lot aspire to become the new glorified saints of popular music, able to craft the perfect musical gem with a flick of the wrist. Therefore it’s both refreshing and a bit reassuring to know that some talented musicians recognize and, even, embrace their obscurity within the general music culture. D.C. native Kowtow Popof released his debut, Songs From the Pointless Forest, in 1993. End of Greatness is his fifth album. Though the title may portend doom, Popof shows no fear, flying through this full-length while displaying a confident and unabashed approach to his tiring trade. The fact that he’s a pop musician among the teeming masses of like-minded hopefuls doesn’t seem to deter him; instead he faces his long-shot plight with humor and intelligence, lamenting his obscurity in “Oblivion” and “End of Greatness”. Instead of whining, he laughs. Instead of brushing off the unplugged acoustic guitar, he dusts off his garage full of instruments, enjoying a party rather than a pout. It’s not the next pop masterwork, but it is an intelligent and delightful affair, opting for self-deprecation (i.e. “Tribute 2 Mice Elf”) rather than self-pity. - Wes Barker


End of Greatness

Why does listening to this CD make me crave designer coffee? I can’t even tolerate the regular stuff.
For whatever reason, this collection of post-modern high-concept power-folk electro-pop (yeah I said it) makes me want to sit on a bricked sidewalk somewhere attempting to think deep thoughts. Or grow a neat little grey-flecked goatee, don wire-rimmed glasses and quote Nietzsche, whose name should really be easier to spell, considering how often he’s gratuitously inserted into paragraphs like this one.
Poor Kowtow Popof, he was hoping for a review and all he got was the equivalent of an early 70s Yes lyric – sonorous, potentially insightful, yet undeniably incoherent. But that’s what this stuff does to me; it’s intoxicating enough in its strangeness that it should almost certainly come with a warning label of some kind.
End Of Greatness is out there, almost literally. One-man band Popof layers tasty melodic-rock electric and acoustic guitars over electronic beats, with atmospheric synth washes lurking around many a corner. That techno-organic musical dichotomy is in and of itself enough to make this disc unique; when you throw in the inscrutable existentialist sci-fi word-puzzles that pass for lyrics here, you step into a fresh new universe of post-modernist art-pop. There are cuts here called “Things That Aren’t Comets” and “Slim Jims & Tab”; the DVD of this album would be hosted by Pee-Wee Herman wearing one of those Day The Earth Stood Still retro space-alien helmets.
So, asks Patient Reader, who is really earning the title today, what does Mr. Popof’s music sound like? Start with a sturdy foundation of Ziggy-era Bowie, add some Warren Zevon for tartness and character detail, throw in a little Beck for modernist electro-folk arrangements, and drop a tab of acid into your flat-panel’s grill while the cable box is stuck on TV Land. I’m telling you, Battlestar Galactica never seemed this profound before.
Hallucinogens would certainly aid anyone in understanding the deeper meaning of the arcane “Amazing Tales,” which paints impressionist visions of other worlds before suffering a nervous breakdown three-fourths of the way in and doing a slow fade into the spacy electro-funk of “Gone 4 Good.” The soaring, pulsing, Floydian “Exalted Headband” and gentle, airy counterpoint “Empty Orchestra” are also notables, all the more evocative for their lack of words.
Those reluctant to indulge in either non-linear thought or Lost In Space marathons, not to mention tongue-in-cheek postmodern humor, may find all this a bit confounding. It’s just as well, since Kowtow’s universe is not really accessible to those of limited imaginatory scope. And yes, I just made up the word “imaginatory.” Those sorts of things have a way of happening when under the influence of a disc like End Of Greatness. I’ll pass on the coffee, but I do seem to have the munchies now. Rating: B – Jason Warburg, the Daily Vault, March 2, 2007 - Jason Warburg


End of Greatness

Popof effortlessly spins sugary webs of pop-rock wonder, Beatlesque in daring and whimsy, and Chilton-esque in power-chord skronk. Shimmering tunes that never dip below the positive is Popof’s response to the ways of love and loss, making this not only a welcome, but benevolent friend for the summer drive.

“Thought You’d Come Around” and “Things That Aren’t Comets” are knowing in their use and subtle reinforcement of love song clichés, but they work because they are true, and are leavened with sardonic wit. The bright melodies of “Oblivion” and “Slim Jims & Tab” focus on the local and minute to reveal the cosmic hope behind all new love, and the temptation to see apocalypse when that love proves ordinary and fading.

There are other tracks, like “Amazing Tales” and “Exalted Headband” that are pseudo-psychedelic, yet not plodding or retro; they just, in their dreamy way, reflect some of the glorious confusion of the lover, not sure whether he is in nirvana or just stoned. But these bright and inspired gems, amazing in their simplicity and deep absorption of influences, do not confuse. They say their piece and move on, and you follow along for the ride. - Mike Wood


End of Greatness

What an interesting album. Frankly, the first five tracks on Kowtow Popof’s “End of Greatness” are solid but not extraordinary stuff. Then following a nice segue of an instrumental in “Exalted Headband,” the disc takes off with well crafted, catchy, challenging, interesting music headed in different directions, all good. The Bowie-like “Amazing Tales,” is a highlight, as are “Gone 4 Good” and the title track. Give this disc a listen, especially the second half. - Robert Fulton


End of Greatness

These songs are incredibly visual. I started mentally storyboarding a video for “Slim Jims & Tab,” a mystic folk/rock song with lovely minor chords. This whole album feels like watching classic rock videos at 3am.

Kowtow Popof is the trippy stage name of the orchestral, mystic rock artist Kevin Kerr. He has a knack for melodic rock and deep, poetic lyrics that are like verbal psychedelic drugs. From the opener “Life as Hobby”:

Put me on a string in a demon’s glass hand
Until the planet’s safe from suffering
And all the wars of worlds have passed ...

Each song has a distinct feel without going too far out of the general expansive vibe. Several of these tracks are sweetly mysterious, but we also get a nice mix of grittier tracks like “On The Run,” where the guitar has more of a crunch to it without overpowering the melody. Popof goes trippy on us with “Things That Aren’t Comets” and orchestral on the title track, which again showcases his lyrical skills:

Today I found nothing.
It’s something. It’s a start.
Today I found the edge
The verge of stardust, where we end, you and I ...

Through it all, Popof’s voice has rock cred with a bit of Lou Reed/David Bowie swagger. This is a complex and sophisticated rock album that’s still easily inviting and appealing, pulling you in to see if he’s seriously bummed out or if there are shades of optimism beneath the musings of the universe and burned-out televisions and love that can’t quite connect. I can actually hear a sly wink beneath a lot of this. Very intriguing. - Jennifer Layton


End of Greatness

Kowtow Popof is a solo artist with an uncanny knack for writing catchy tunes with smart lyrics. End of Greatness is a breakup album, but don't worry, he's not here to wallow in self pity. He never loses track of good melodies or unique perspectives on love. "Thought you'd come around" is about loss but with its tongue in its cheek. "Things That Aren't Comets" twinkles brightly, Popof echoing Marc Bolan at times. "Oblivion" has a memorable melody and Popof's vocal is evocative. "Tribute 2 Mice Elf" is quite cute and has a neat chorus. Popof's made an album that's winning and easy to love. - Anna Maria Stjärnell


Discography

Exalted Headband (2009), End of Greatness (2006), Soul Button (2006, as member of Hitchcock Blonde), Kowtow Drops the Pop Off (2003), Eat My Dust (1999), Coaster (1996), Songs From the Pointless Forest (1994)

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Bio

Contact: kowtow@earthlink.net
www.kowtowpopof.com
www.myspace.com/kowtowpopof
Label: www.wampus.com
Collaboration: www.hitchcockblonde.com

A singer/songwriter from the Washington, DC area, Kowtow has just released his sixth CD for Wampus Multimedia, the all-instrumental Exalted Headband (June 2009). Headband mixes elements of rock and electronica with classical and folk touches to create a personal soundtrack of moody pop.

Headband is the companion piece to Kowtow’s last vocal record, End of Greatness. All six of Kowtow's CDs can be purchased at iTunes and CDBaby.com, among others. Kowtow is performing in the DC area this summer and fall in support of the new CD.

Kowtow also collaborated in 2006 with rock/electronica ensemble Hitchcock Blonde on their debut CD, Soul Button, also available at CDBaby.com and iTunes. Kowtow had a hand in writing 6 of the album’s 7 originals, and provided vocals, guitar, and knob-twirling as well.