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Declarations of Independents: Cobra Verde
Flag Waving: When Declarations of Independents last spoke to John Petkovic,
singer/guitarist/keyboardist for the Cleveland-based band Cobra Verde, the
group had been coralled by Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices as the touring
incarnation of GBV.
Two years later, the group's association with Pollard is a thing of the
past, and Cobra Verde is planning a spring release for its Motel Records
Petkovic says of his brief association with GBV, "The problem was, I was
in a situation where I wasn't able to finish this record." So, after one
somewhat-acrimoious jaunt with Pollard on the road, Cobra Verde returned to
making music in its own name only.
"Nightlife" is Cobra Verde's first full-length album of all-new material
since its debut, "Viva La Muerte," in 1994 and the first project by the band
for New York-based Motel. (All the group's previous records were issued by
Scat Records, the Cleveland-bred label that relocated to St. Louis a couple
of years ago.)
The current record--which was originally scheduled for January but has
been pushed back to April due to production problems--once again betrays the
deep influence of such '70s glam-rock acts as Roxy Music (especially on
"Crashing in a Plane," which features an Andy McKay-like sax slo by guest
hornman Ralph Carney) and T. Rex.
Petkovic, who has as deep an understanding of rock 'n' roll history as
any musician we've ever spoken to, takes a dim view of the 1998 glam revival,
epitomized by such phenomena as the Todd Haynes movie "Velvet Goldmine."
"I wasn't into the movie at all," Petkovic says. "It had an interesting
look." However, he adds, "Not that you need classic rock...but to have these
archeological finds I think is good. There are many under-appreciated parts
of rock 'n' roll."
But Petkovic also ranges far afield from the glam sound on "Nightlife":
The album's last track, "Pontius Pilate," is a horn-heavy piece with roots in
the Weimar-era balladry of Kurt Weill. (Petkovic also plays in what he calls
a "sci-fi cabaret side project" called the Futurists.)
Petkovic sees the music he makes with Cobra Verde as markedly different
from the earnestness and sincerity of many contemporary indie-rock bands.
"I want to create ideas and moods and put forth tension and not just
wear my heart on my sleeve," he says, adding with a chuckle, "If I did,
people would see that I'm heartless."
Petkovic, who recorded "Nightlife" with his longtime musical partner,
bassist Don Depew, and a rotating supporting cast, has assembled a new unit
that includes Depew, guitarist Frank Vazanno, keyboardist-theremin player
Chas Smith, and drummer Mark Klein. He says this group will go on tour in
support of the album later this year.
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