Monday, September 26, 2011

REVIEW: Cobra Skulls -- Agitations

Reno, Nevada's Cobra Skulls have that crucial characteristic that tends to separate excellent thrash punk bands I listen to from those I roll my eyes at -- a sense of humor. On their first three records, 2005 EP Eat Your Babies, 2006 EP Draw Muhammad, and 2007 full length Sitting Army, all but 2 of the songs had the word "cobra" somewhere in the title. So with songs like "Cobra Skullifornia", "Cobra Skulls in D Minor", and "Donnie Rumsfelt My Cobra Skull Ass", you knew you were at least in store for some goofy entertainment, if nothing else. Except with Cobra Skulls there's always plenty else. Of course the music's good and loud, but the guitars are always interesting, over solid bass and drums. And Devin Peralta's vocals eschew the nasal earnestness that's become too common in today's punk music, in favor of the old fashioned snarl. There's a welcome self-confidence to their songs, and you can hear it in this short concert vid of their first non-cobra named song, "Ode to Jefferson".

They had the good sense to know the 'cobra-titled song' thing had run its course with their next album, 2009's American Rubicon, along with the good sense not to go all serious either (e.g., track 10: "I Used to Like Them When They Put 'Cobra' in the Titles"). It was their strongest effort to date, and the record, coupled with their growing reputation for incendiary live shows, had them drawing crowds across the country. Here's a video for "Rebel Fate" off that album.

The third Cobra Skulls full-length will be released on 27 September by Fat Wreck Chords. It's called Agitations, and it's tremendous. Their well-earned RIYL list -- Bad Religion, Against Me!, Social Distortion -- gets a big stretch right out of the gate on opener "Six Degrees". The song starts with a nasty riff and howl that sounds like the best song the Hellacopters never wrote. From that blistering start, they don't let up until acoustic closer "Believe" 11 tracks down the line. Here's the studio version of the second song, "Iron Lung".

There's a ton to like about this record, but the most satisfying thing for me is how the band is evolving a unique sound, moving away from the classic American punk structures of Social Distortion and Dillinger Four, and into a rootsier, grimier, scabrous noise. It's all these things without sacrificing the populism, and without sacrificing the loud. This concert clip from a show earlier this month (9/15) is a good example of what I'm trying to describe. It's the 11th track, "Running Out".

Here's another new song from the same concert called "Solastalgia", which is a neologism that describes the emotions of that Native American in the anti-littering commercial from the 1970s (but you probably already knew that). Anyway, excellent song.

Go get this terrific album when you wake up. And Cobra Skulls never stop touring. I'll be catching them in Durham in October. See them where you live:

Kansas City, MORecord Bar09/26/116:00pm
Cedar Falls, IAThe Wheelhouse09/27/116:00pm
MInneapolis, MNTriple Rock Social Club09/28/115:00pm
Madison, WIThe Frequency09/29/118:00pm
Chicago, ILBeat Kitchen09/30/118:30pm
St. Louis, MOFirebird10/01/117:30pm
Covington, KYMad Hatter10/02/118:00pm
Pittsburgh, PAGarfield Artworks10/04/116:00pm
Cleveland, OHBeachland Tavern10/05/117:30pm
Hamtrack, MISmall's10/06/118:00pm
London, ONDude Ranch10/07/118:00pm
Toronto, ONHard Luck10/08/118:00pm
Ottowa, ONCafe Dekcuf10/09/118:00pm
Quebec City, QCL'Agitee10/11/118:00pm
Montreal, QCFoufounes Electrique10/12/118:00pm
Winooski, VTMonkey House10/13/117:00pm
Cambridge, MADemocracy Center10/14/117:00pm
Ithaca, NYThe Haunt10/15/115:00pm
New York, NYWebster Hall10/16/116:30pm
Philadelphia, PAThe Fire10/18/117:00pm
Baltimore, MDOtto Bar10/19/117:00pm
Richmond, VAThe Hospital10/20/117:00pm
Durham, NCMotorco Music Hall10/21/117:00pm
Atlanta, GA52910/22/119:00pm
Birmingham, ALSpring Street Firehouse10/23/116:00pm
Charlotte, NCTremont Music Hall - The Casbah10/25/117:00pm
Wilmington, NCSoapbox Laundro-Lounge10/26/116:00pm
Gainesville, FLDouble Down LIve10/27/118:00pm
Gainesville, FLTHE FEST10/28/114:00pm
Pensacola, FLLive11/01/117:00pm
Houston, TXMango's11/02/118:30pm
San Antonio, TXTen Eleven11/03/118:30pm
TBA - Austin, TX11/04/118:00pm
Ft. Worth, TX1919 Hemphill11/05/118:00pm
Oklahoma City, OKThe Conservatory11/06/117:30pm
Albuquerque, NMAmped11/07/116:00pm
Scottsdale, AZChaser's11/08/117:00pm
Escondido, CAThe Metaphor Cafe11/09/117:00pm
Pomona, CAVHS Warehouse11/10/118:00pm
West Hollywood, CATroubador11/11/117:00pm
San Francisco, CAThee Parkside11/12/119:00pm

And here's something extra for reading this far --

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