It’s taken them three albums, but Cobra Starship has finally found stable middle ground. New album “Hot Mess” takes the smooth synth-pop sound from their debut album “While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets,” and mixes it with the over-the-top outrageousness of second album “Viva La Cobra.” Add a dash of big-named guests (Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Kara DioGuardi, and Kevin Rudolf), sprinkle liberally with lyrics about partying and hooking up, and you’ve got the most consistent album that Cobra Starship has released in their four year career.
Many people who were fans of frontman Gabe Saporta’s former band, Midtown, often beg him to ditch his purple hoodies and go back to his roots, but he seems to be most comfortable in Cobra Starship, where he can take musical risks that would be career suicide for anyone else. Sampling Hall and Oates? No problem. Titling a song “Pete Wentz Is the Only Reason We’re Famous”? Of course.
One big difference between “Hot Mess” and Cobra Starship’s other albums is that this one follows the band’s first true radio success, with “Good Girls Go Bad” reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. None of Cobra Starship’s other singles have ever been featured this heavily on the radio, so it will be interesting to see if radio play translates to higher album sales.
Album opener “Nice Guys Finish Last” explodes out of your speakers and grabs you by the shirt, sampling both Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” and Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes.” The title track has a catchy chorus and could easily get heavy radio rotation, if “Good Girls Go Bad” is any indication. “Fold Your Hands Child” and “Living in the Sky With Diamonds” provide a welcome respite from the album’s constant high. Cobra Starship even acknowledges the fact that most of the music scene doesn’t take them seriously with “You’re Not in On the Joke, singing “If you see them laughing/don’t follow them/’cause they’re not in on the joke.” It may seem exclusionary, but it’s true; diehard Cobra Starship fans get what the band is about, and that’s part of their massive appeal. Those who find the band annoying need not apply.
It’s sad, though, that Cobra Starship doesn’t get the respect they deserve and are written off as neon-loving hipsters with limited talent. Peruse and Cobra-related message board on punknews.org or absolutepunk.com and you’ll find comments like this gem: “What’s the joke to be in on? Getting a bunch of kids to listen to shitty dance music in the guise of a rock band?” Cobra Starship may not be the most serious of bands, but the music is fun, and that’s really all that matters.
Underneath their quirky, Day-Glo exterior, Cobra Starship is smart and it’s obvious that each musical step they take, including the ones taken on “Hot Mess, is carefully calculated.
(photo courtesy of MTV.com)