J A Cohen
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J A Cohen

Evanston, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1994 | SELF

Evanston, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1994
Solo Alternative Singer/Songwriter




"The Midwest's Elvis Costello"

Jeff Cohen has been referred to as the "Midwest's Elvis Costello." It's not exactly a bad handle to lay on the guy, though it doesn't tell the whole story. The first track on THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS is sure to pop the socks off any Posies fan and will leave many listeners scrambling to hit the "replay" button. There's also the lo-fi, acoustic version of Sam Cooke's "Cupid." Cohen lends the track a completely different melody and chord structure, turning the sunshiny pop song into a film-noir death wish, with Cupid somehow lurking in the shadows. Muze, c1999 - Muze

"The other well-known Elvis"

Yes that's the title of an Elvis Presley movie but it's the other well known Elvis (Costello) that is strongly evoked on this retro rocking disc. Which by default also means you'll hear Buddy Holly, John Lennon and Gram Parsons in Jeff Cohen's gritty songs. Fine by me, I'd say. --Power of Pop, November 1999 - Power of Pop


This Chicago trio is off to an impressive start with its debut effort. From the moody textures of “Cupid” to the downright melancholy flip side “Everything Died,” Philo balances the themes of love and loss with a passion and vigor that is rarely found on the music scene. Only 450 copies were pressed of the 7-inch, but it is worth seeking out . Larry Flick, Billboard, 7/1/95 - Billboard

"first single from Chicago artist Philo"

These guys must be rocket scientists. They seem to understand space, as well as the fact that you don’t need to fill every square inch of it. “Everything Died” is spare and dirgey, a rough elegy for could-have-beens. “Cupid” takes apart the old Sam Cooke song and puts it back together with a few pieces left over, offering feedback accompaniment. It’s one of the best cover versions I’ve ever heard. Seriously. --Chris Nickson, Alternative Press, April, 1997. - Alternative Press

"Combining sounds into single songs"

Philo are a 3-piece from Chicago who can’t decide whether they want to play indie rock, alt country or new wave. They get round his seemingly insurmountable problem by combining all these different sounds into single songs. Cruel and Loud is roots music, yearning and heartfelt. Sam Cooke’s Cupid is rendered unidentifiable by Jeff Cohen’s mixed low vocal and a heavily pummeled acoustic guitar, and Last Dart Leaving (Down) is distressed guitars going 10 rounds with a Wilco tune. It’s no surprise to learn that Philo have supported both the Afghan Whigs and Billy Joe Shaver. , -Luke (8/99) - Luke

"Tommy Stinson meets Shazam"

Philo's The Trouble With Girls (Spur/Parasol) is very cool fuzzy pop full of melody and power. Imagine a slightly more laid back Shazam crossed with a more sensitive Tommy Stinson and you've got it. Amplifier Vol 4, No. 6, (November 1999) - Amplifier

"More Dour Trio than Power Trio"

Philo's just-released debut LP "The Trouble with Girls" makes clear that this local three-piece outfit is more dour trio than power trio. Philo is made up of members of former Chicago rock and country-rock groups, and that pedigree emerges in the band's music. Shifting easily between buzzing uptempo guitar-pop and spare, heartsore country odes, Philo strings dark, often downcast lyrics over generally solid six-string hooks. The group's penchant for melancholia is especially evident on its forlorn, folky rewrite of Sam Cooke's "Cupid." But though the subject matter leans toward the morose, "The Trouble with Girls" is a consistently energizing listen. --Rick Reger, Chicago Tribune, 6/24/99 - Chicago Tribune

"Best Chicago Band Cover Version of the Year"

Philo’s reading of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” bravely dares to surpass the original’s passion while treating the song’s beauty with due respect. Best Chicago band cover version of the year. --Richard Milne, WXRT 93.1, 1995. - Local Anesthetic WXRT

"Sh*t Name, Sh*t Sleeve, Sh*t-Hot Album!"

The Trouble With Girls is dark, melodic, lyrically rich Americana -- an absolute gem. The best tracks take in a wide musical range -- Last Dart Leaving (Down), a stirring rocker with tons of fuzz and a country twang, just the sort of thing Velvet Crush should be doing. One Cheating Bride, an eerie echo-soaked ballad, Just How Evil, with its epic wall-of-sound guitars and psychotic lyrics, Cruel and Loud, a mournful country waltz with a haunting twin vocal, and Licorice, perhaps the best of a seriously hot bunch, which is built around a tumbling guitar figure that gives it the feel of a 70s' TV theme. This trio from Illinois deserves your attention. They also deserve a better name and better artwork. --Terry Hermon, Bucketfull of Brains, February 2000 - Bucketfull of Brains

"The Trouble With Girls"

With tasty album opener "Last Dart Leaving (Down)," the boys in Philo immediately bring to mind Scottish duo Del Amitri, especially with singer Jeff Cohen's vocal tie with Del's Justin Currie. If it stopped there, great, but every song on Philo's full-length debut goes a step further, proving they're more than just schooled in noisy, romantic power pop. The trio - guitarist Jeff Cohen, bassist Johnny Nickels and drummer Chris Russell - indeed is more than versed at meshing styles on this album, managing never to sound forced. "Dart's" follow-up is "One Cheating Bride," a stark acoustic confession, sounding like it was recorded in an empty apartment. Crashing that party is "No Roses" which is soundly torched by the urgent harmonies of Freakwater's Janet Bean and Cohen's slashing guitar fuzz.
It's Cohen's complex mix of sincere and self-deprecating lyrics that would make him an apt opener for Richard Thompson or Elvis Costello. Like them, he matches pleasing pop melodies with slightly uncomfortable ideas. As the combustible "Just How Evil" builds, Cohen loosens the punch line: "She has no idea how evil I can be." Now bop your head to that.
Later, on the country ballad "Cruel and Loud," Cohen's narrator draws you in even as he admits, "I miss the smell of sticky and sweet perfume/of a thousand teenage girls on the first day to school." But the sympathy is held most for the woman in the mournful "Sound the Alarm" who asks, "I made somebody's day/now will someone make mine?" In Philo's tuneful world, the trouble with girls is their men. --Mark Guarino, The Daily Herald, 6/19/99 - Daily Herald


Mid and Western (LP, 2014)
Hollowpoint (EP, 2003)
Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday (Parasol, single, 2001)
The Trouble With Girls (Parasol, LP, 2000)
Cupid (Loose Booty, single,1995)
El Scream (GDR, single, 1994)
Soul Cola (Drill Press, EP, 1993)



J A Cohen grew up in the downstate flatlands of Illinois, taking his country-influenced songwriting to the pop and punk scene in Chicago in the early 1990s. For the next decade, Cohen performed throughout the country, including showcases at the SXSW and CMJ music festivals. Cohen was a Chicago-ASCAP Best Songwriter finalist, and his music was critically acclaimed by numerous publications including Billboard, Alternative Press, CMJ, No Depression, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Sun Times, and others.

Cohen and his band Philo opened for such artists as Matthew Sweet, Buffalo Tom, Eddie Vedder, the Afghan Whigs, Guided by Voices,the Jayhawks, the Bottle Rockets and X; and performed or recorded with artists such as Syd Straw, Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Ribot, Flaco Jimenez, and Billy Joe Shaver.

Cohens haunting recording of the Sam Cooke classic, Cupid, won best Chicago band Cover of the Year, by Chicagos leading AAA station, WXRT. Alternative Presss Chris Nickson called it one of the best cover versions I have ever heard. Seriously.

Then he stopped.

Cohens latest work, the 2014 full-length release "Mid and Western" is the product of more than a decade of work. Cohen says of the project, Maybe the hardest thing for a songwriter to do is make that transition from boy-meets-girl songs to adulthood, without sounding preachy, cynical, or worse...age-inappropriate. Man I hope Im not that.

Currently (Summer 2014) receiving airplay on more than 85 CMJ reporting stations, "Mid and Western"'s new material reflects a career-long struggle to combine influences into the same song. Cohen says, One night Id play on an Americana bill. Then, the next night wed play in a power pop lineup. Then, Id get called to play in some songwriters circle doing renditions of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen songs. Wed play with country artists, but most of us in the band had a power pop and punk history, too. Getting disparate influences to work together within the same song sometimes takes a conscious effort, other times you hope it just seeps out. Here's to hoping.

In between the hooks are the kind of lyrics that gave Cohen the "Midwest's Elvis Costello" handle: old flames and first loves jostle for attention, joined on occasion by half-strangers with backstories that dont come easy. We meet the cheating bride (Cohens prequel to Gram Parsons Thousand Dollar Wedding), the career woman who used to steal beer from her daddys Amana, the golf-widowing CEO, and the boy whose only wish is for his mother to cry.

Cohen smiles that age might have something to do with it, No longer trying to be somebody else is freeing -- I mean, the things people wrote about me were really nice, but at some point you outgrow the label and you either get comfortable with what you sound like, or you chase your identity forever. Do you think anyone says to Mr. Costello, are you Englands J A Cohen?

Band Members