Review: Cobra Verde, "Nightlife"

In the annals of American rock, Cobra Verde will most likely be remembered as the band that Guided by Voices' Bob Pollard tapped to back him up on GBV's disappointing Mag Earwhig. That's a tremendous shame, because the Ohio based CV is a gem of a band, and with its fourth release, Nightlife, they prove it.

 

Led by (and primarily composed of) the unfailingly charismatic John Petkovic, Cobra Verde are an amalgamation of the last 30 years of theatrical rock. With Nightlife, Petkovic hits the town, throwing 'em back at all the established haunts (Bowie, Iggy, Roxy Music) and some lesser-frequented dives (the Damned, Nick Cave, the Triffids). Petkovic's trick - and the reason Nightlife succeeds - is that he never parks himself at any one establishment, instead choosing to visit them all. By sunrise, his entourage - we the listeners - is left dazed, marveling at the amount of ground that's been covered.

 

And what exquisite ground it is. The opener, "One Step Away From Myself," is delightfully new-wave. The piano and sax-inflected "Crashing in a Place" conjures the best of Stranded-era Roxy Music, while "Heaven in the Gutter" sounds like a nod to the Who's "The Real Me." There are even stabs at New Orleans-inspired crooning ("What Makes a Man a Man") and Hebrew folk music ("Pontius Pilate"). Over it all is Petkovic's ready baritone croon, a perfect match for the dramatic and superbly realized tunes. Bob Pollard can be left to further dilute his greatness. With Nightlife, Cobra Verde is bolstering theirs. 

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