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Cobra Verde Delivers One of the Year's Best Discs

By Tom Wright
Staten Island Advance
November 1999
"Nightlife," Cobra Verde - With an esteemed trail that stretches from their days in the mid-'80s as Death of Samantha to their current incarnation - which became the backbone for Guided by Voices in '97 for "Mag Earwig" - Cobra Verde has continuously honed their considerable talents, proving to be one of the best and most enduring rock bands around.

Band leader and visionary John Petkovic has refined and broadened his band's sonic horizons, achieving fuller sound. Through his insightful lyrics and emotionally charged gruff crooning, Petkovic recalls a cross between Jim Morrison, Ian McCulloch and Nick Cave.

While the Cleveland combo remains predominantly guitar-driven, scintillating keyboards and saxophone solos and fills are given a greater prominence. Possessing the eminence of a '70s classic, when rock seemed less self-limited and niche-oriented, Cobra Verde fuses a wide spectrum of styles, galvanized by taut craftsmanship and production values.

Though the band is often short-sightedly characterized as glam-punk, their well-seasoned stylistic amalgamation seems to share more in common straight-ahead rock with an adventurous, discerning edge. Something akin to the way the beatles or Bowie elevated rock's conventions. And while Cobra Verde occasionally do show a glam influence - Roxy Music and T. Rex comparisons continue to surface - each song conjures up a different set of reference points. Wielding the impact of a sledge-hammer, the band opens with a stellar remake of the single "One Step Away from Myself" - one of the decade's strongest blasts of punk-fueled mania. From there, the quintet dips into '80s new wave (Echo and the Bunnymen); Stooges-derived punk; Doors-like noir psychodrama; country rock langour, a la Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" era; horn-driven Dixieland; and, a touch of Kurt Weill-inspired cabaret rock - something that Petkovic is pursuing as a side project - with equal aplomb.

The anthemic rocker "Every God for Himself" is another welcome revised gem that is given new life. Not only is "Nightlife" the band's finest achievement to date, it stands as one of the genre's most impressive showings this year.

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