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Cobra Verde got its cache of cool in 1997, when the Cleveland group hooked up with fellow Ohioan Robert Pollard to become the short-lived new Guided by Voices. But the truth is that Cobra Verde was cool before that and continues to be the same smart, past-referencing and melodically adventurous outfit that succeeded Death of Samantha during the early ‘90s.
Easy Listening is a perfect release for these “Rock is Back!” times from a band who never thought it was dead in the first place, a ballsy 11-song kick of crunchy guitar hooks, swaggering dynamics and anthemic choruses that are timeless rather than dated. It’s also less conceptually mannered than 1999’s Nightlife, giving Easy Listening a freewheeling kind of energy that starts in the garage but has the accomplished, albeit lo-fi, polish of players—led by frontman John Petkovic—adept at balancing artistic expression with cocksure bravado. So Cobra Verde (named after Werner Herzog’s film) gives us the
glammy bang of “Riot Industry” and the killer “My Name Is Nobody,” as well as the moody textures of “The Speed of Dreams” and “Don’t Worry (The Law’s Gonna Break You),” the latter a dense soundscape of acoustic and electric guitars, organ and a beatific saxophone solo. Meanwhile, tracks like “‘Til Sunrise,” “Modified Frankenstein” and the chunky, charged “Terrorist” are genre-crossing triumphs that would sound great in dive bars and stadiums alike. The vagueries of the music biz (i.e. label problems) made it hard to hear new Cobra Verde music for the past few years, but the wait was worth it, and the listening is surely easy this time around.
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