Haven't Slept All Year (October 2008 release)
Howlin' Wuelf Media
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COBRA VERDE -- HAVEN'T SLEPT ALL YEAR
Cobra Verde could've taken the easy route. It wouldn't have taken five years for the Cleveland rock 'n' roll quintet to release its new record, Haven't Slept All Year.
CV's first originals disc in five years is all over the map in sound and style. It opens with a badass riff ("World Can't Have Her"), then detours into classic pop ("Wildweed"), glittery post-punk ("Riot in the Foodcourt"), wounded sing-a-longs ("Home in the Highrise," "Together Alone"), woozy blues ("Wasted Again") and raging, glorious rock. Getting there was a twisted, tangled road.
The CVers entered the studio to record Haven't Slept All Year soon after releasing Easy Listening. The 2003 effort was their most successful disc to date, spawning three U.S. tours, critical raves and bloodshot eyes across the country. When they started working on their follow-up, they didn't want to do what so many groups would have done after making a breakthrough disc: repeat themselves and devolve into formula. So they entered the studio to record a bunch of covers -- everything from Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" to New Order's "Temptation" to the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire." The idea: to use the songs as guninea pigs to explore new sounds, styles and recording techniques. They never intended to release them -- but by the time they finished decided they would as 2005's Copycat Killers.
Much to the band’s surprise Copycat Killers led to appearances in network TV series, including "The O.C.": Cobra Verde appeared performing Foreigner's cheeseball ballad "Waiting for a Girl Like You" -- which went on to become an unlikely iTunes hit. The covers experiment led directly to Haven't Slept All Year…minus the cheeseballing.
Then other problems delayed the release of the record. After Haven't Slept All Year had been mixed in summer 2007 by John Agnello (Hold Steady, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.), the band’s activities slammed to a halt when singer John Petkovic's life took a tragic turn when Petkovic devoted most of 2007 caring for his dying mother. "The entire year was a gruelling catastrophe -- I can't explain what it was like," he says. "I was totally paralyzed; I couldn't think about or even do anything, including music."
It was the first time in decades Petkovic wasn't busy “doing.” He'd played in a number of bands, including Guided by Voices and a new, as-yet-unnamed unit with members of Dinosaur Jr. and Witch. He's also a journalist who's written about aesthetics, film, fashion, underwear and bars for various publications, including Cleveland's daily newspaper. And he once served as aid to the Crown Prince of Serbia.
Petkovic isn't the only CVer with a colorful past and set of interests. Guitarist Frank Vazzano is a professional juggler and male model -- and a professor of rock 'n' roll at Cleveland State University. Drummer Mark Klein is completing his dissertation on the influence of Germanic culture on American heavy metal, plays with metal heroes Breaker and runs Noisefloor Studio, where Cobra Verde recorded Haven't Slept All Year. Bassist Edward Angel Sotelo is a writer and dramatist and spends much of the off-season in Argentina, where he got his start performing in tango bars and bordellos as a youth. Guitarist Tim Parnin is an amateur boxer -- he's sparred with middleweight world champ Kelly Pavlik -- online publishing mogul, T-shirt designer and plays in that as-of-yet unnamed band with Petkovic. But this story is about Cobra Verde.
"Four months ago, we got together to practice -- the first time in forever," says Petkovic. "We started playing these songs, songs I'd totally wiped out from my memory, it seemed. It sounded great, but felt even better -- all of us together in a room that seemed a world away from everything else that had happened. We realized that we had to get this record out, finally."
Yes, finally. Haven't Slept All Year is worth the wait.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE: "Grade: A-. Appropriately released on MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer's MuscleTone Records, Cobra Verde's third full-length, Easy Listening, is nothing less than a masterpiece of glammed-up sexual obsession, agit-prop antics and indie rock glitter. ... Other records from 2003 have been more innovative and certainly heavier, but Easy Listening is so golden, so upbeat and so perfectly right out of the Midwest's sleeper hotbed of rock that it simply sounds bigger than life &hibar; like the Queens of the Stone Age's fun-loving, land-locked cousins that dream of the California sun and surf. .. infectious in a way that takes you to another time and place -- some alternate universe where rock stars are still willing to live carefree and reap the benefits of the lifestyle.
BLENDER: "With absolutely no shame and just the right amount of irony, Cobra Verde embrace classic-rock posturing with all of its messy emotional overreach, wanky-yet-tasteful guitar solos and bombastic songcraft. Fortunately, Cobra head John Petkovic and four of his pals -- who have been cranking out smart glosses on old forms since the mid-'90s, reaching an apex on 1999's brilliant "Nightlife" -- are convincingly good at bringing arena-size pomp to underground rock clubs. Petkovic is fond of glam's cartoonish metaphors ("Modified Frankenstein," a muted New York Dolls moment) and fondness for storytelling (the Bic-lighter power ballad "Throw It Away"). The title "To Your Pretty Face" telegraphs the record's glammest moment, but all of "Easy Listening" glitters in the spotlight.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: "Smorgasborg of the Week, Riot Industry! Punk band Cobra Verde serve up more than just a music video -- featuring belly dancer Danielle, blaxploitation king Rudy Ray Moore, and Cheers barfly George Wendy as a fishing-show host."
FHM: It's easy to understand why Cobra Verde boasts such influential fans as Queens of the Stone Age, Mike Watt and the Breeders. This third album from the Cleveland-based quartet features a brilliant mix of '70s glam, post-punk, heavy pop and balls-out rock. "Easy Listening" flies out of the speakers and places a firm foot on the throat, holding it there for the duration of this sonic hoedown."
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Blending raw power and romantic stylishness, Cleveland quintet Cobra Verde evoked the glittery bravado of '70s glam-rock pioneers Roxy Music and T. Rex."
NEW YORK TIMES: "The dangerous, ironic aura of glam-rock fascinates Cobra Verde, a band from Cleveland that folds new paradoxes into the anthems and angles of the 1970's style. Its new album, "Easy Listening" (MuscleTone), slightly smoothes out its music but not its barbed wit."
TIMEOUT NEW YORK: "So literate in the language of rock, it borders on telepathy (rock telepathy, that is)."
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