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Rolling Stone, 6-8-2000
Cobra Verde
By David Fricke

Mimicry is not a crime in rock & roll, it's an art form. These two bands are brazen magpies, reveling in hijacked text from the 1970s: the cerebral glam of Roxy Music, the beer-and-mascara stomp of Kiss and Aerosmith, the dirty pop of New York punk. But Ohio's Cobra Verde and the Makers, from Spokane, Washington, also have good stories to tell and rock their purloined kicks like they invented them in the first place.

Cobra Verde carry off the rusted snazz of Nightlife with grit and panache. As a vocalist, guitarist-songwriter John Petkovic doses Bryan Ferry's fey warble with the baritone acid of James Hetfield. As rock scholars, the band pushes all the right retro buttons. "Crashing in a Plane" smokes like Roxy covering the Buzzcocks' "Something's Gone Wrong Again"; "Heaven in the Gutter" shakes like Ted Nugent fronting T. Rex.

But Nightlife is really a Petkovic treatise on fidelity and illusion; cold ambition and betrayal lurk inside spangled blasts like "Casino" and "$2 Souvenir." "Finally I realized it's every god for himself," he sings with marvelous Bowie-esque shock in "Every God for Himself." And in "Conflict," he takes a dead-on swing at phony mutiny: "You resent but not rebel/The cheap appeal of conflict." Old glam was never this pissed off.

Rock Star God is a rowdy burlesque of pop fame: The Wall as written by Nick Hornby and scored by Blue Oyster Cult. Makers singer Michael Shelley swaggers through "Star Power" ("It's irony at its best/The way heaven made you hotter than the rest") with the perfect ratio of snot to satire. In "A Better Way Down," a boss hybrid of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" and Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels," Shelley gets black laughs out of rock suicide -- mocking the methods ("Ram a fork into a socket if you dare/ Electricity messes up your hair"), then sneering at the futility ("Have fun with it/It's the last cool thing you'll ever do").

The album's punch line, though, is that rock stardom is next to godliness. Shelley, guitarist Jamie Frost, bassist Don Virgo and drummer Jay Cassady inject a hearty cheer into their takeoffs on Humble Pie ("Sex Is Good Food") and hyper metal ("Too Many F**kers [On the Streets]"), underscoring their faith in the unique glory of rock & roll: that it brings out the star quality in all of us. "We were the life and the death of a better breed," Shelley sings in "When We Was Gods." On Rock Star God, the Makers strut their stuff like they rule right here, right now.


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