It seems that Gabe Saporta has experienced an epiphany of sorts. To the chagrin of some (and the delight of others), he has emphatically declared that Cobra Starship wasn’t a one-album breather from Midtown by following up with a new album approximately fifty-four weeks after the debut. Viva La Cobra! proves that Saporta has refined his dance-rock chops with a little Latin flair, straying quite far at times from the handclap-styled rock of the band’s debut, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets.
An electronic loop backs the album’s opener, “The City is At War,” a song sure to start a dance pandemic among those who have been throwing their fangs up for the past year or so. Coupled with the next track, “Guilty Pleasure,” Saporta seems to be expressing his displeasure with the state of music today, with so much emphasis being placed on looks and attitudes. The latter can see him perhaps playfully explaining his fascination with the new band to all of the old-school Midtown fans who refuse to let their demise go. It seems that his interests have changed, and in the process, Cobra Starship has crafted some pretty catchy dance tracks.
“One Day, Robots Will Cry” is a bit of a step down both in intensity and style, relying on some fuzzy harmonizing and choruses similar to what listeners heard on their last album. However, the next two songs provide the heart and soul of Viva La Cobra!’s dance vibe. “I’m bringin’ sassy back,” Saporta declares on “Kiss My Sass.” The song starts out extremely catchy but trails off until Gym Class Heroes’ Travis McCoy raps a verse just before Saporta implores listeners to “throw your fangs up, Cobra style.” All in all, the song comes off a little corny, despite a very entertaining beginning to the track. “Damn You Look Good and I’m Drunk (Scandalous)” offers listeners their first “did he actually say that?” moment of the album. The song starts off slick but unremarkable, however, you won’t easily forget the chorus for as many times as you’ll hear it. About two-thirds of the way through the song, you’ll hear a rather annoying voice start talking over the music, and that’s where the song comes crashing down. I won’t spoil the line for you, but you’ll certainly be left scratching your head; it’s certainly not something you’d expect from a Cobra Starship song.
“Smile for the Paparazzi” has a distinct Latin flair with the drums and gang vocals, although the chorus comes off very dull. If they came up with a better hook than that, we might be citing this as one of the best Cobra songs to date. “Angie” actually provides a breath of fresh air with a foot-tapping track that’s not too over the top. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much else to allow the song to stand on its own. “Pleasure Ryland,” the album closer, is the most experimental song on the album, which strays into a very synth-happy atmosphere with a little R&B feel to it. To be honest, it sounds a lot better than my description might suggest, but it comes just a little too late to right the ship.
It feels like Cobra Starship is having a bit of an identity crisis. The over-the-top songs don’t go far enough, and the more streamlined tracks simply don’t go far enough to allow them to stand out from the rest of the pack. The instruments are often muted in favor of loops, and rarely does it sound like the songs could have been created by a full band as opposed to a single guy with a laptop and the right programs. If the first album could be described as Midtown meets Hot Hot Heat, the new one feels like Gabe collaborated with MC Lars. It’s a solid danceable follow-up to While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets, but a lot of fans will be left wondering, “What if?” Viva La Cobra! won’t put the haters to bed, but it might just win over a few of them.