CD REVIEW Synth-Heavy and Self-Aware

Cobra Starship’s ‘Hot Mess’ Offers a Few Gems

Cobra Starship

Hot Mess

Produced by Kevin Rudolf

Fueled By Ramen

August 11, 2009

Do you remember the goodie bags you used to get as party favors after an extravagant birthday party? It was usually a grab bag of treats: an obligatory shiny toy along with jelly beans that everyone tried to throw away. Hot Mess, Cobra Starship’s newest album, is akin to those grab bags. While there are a couple of catchy tracks and a few really good songs, others run the risk of being repetitive, and the dance-punk-synthpop style wears one’s patience thin.

Although Cobra Starship has its roots in New York, its similarities to bands like The Strokes, The Virgins (and all other New York bands with names starting with “the”) end there. Their beats are heavily synthesized and toe the line between pop and punk. Many of their more famous tracks are dance-worthy with almost hip-hop vibes.

Their hit single on Hot Mess, entitled “Good Girls Go Bad,” features guest vocals from Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester. It’s catchy, feisty, in-your-face, and follows the current hype of having a repetitive chorus of the same string of words. A perfect dance track, its style epitomizes Cobra Starship’s flexibility as artists and their playful approach to music.

It’s so difficult to categorize Cobra Starship: When listening to individual tracks, many seem to stem from totally different artists, albeit artists who rely on heavy synthesizers. “The World Will Never Do” is almost R&B (hipsters, please don’t be too aghast) with singer Gabe Saporta’s soulful croons, saved by his slightly whiny pop-punk inflections. Old fans may rejoice at almost thoughtful tracks like “The Scene is Dead.” However, the ballad’s beats are belied by whimsical lyrics like “Oh yeah, it’s alright/ Cause I got a pretty face,/ I guess that I can sing alright.”

Music critics may instantaneously write Cobra Starship off and place them in the same category as Dashboard Confessional and My Chemical Romance. However, the genius of Cobra Starship is the fact that they don’t take themselves seriously. Their outrageous lyrics, identity crisis (emo-pop? dance-pop? synth-pop? is this pop?), and glorification of the 80s in Hot Mess may make some cringe. However, if taken in strict doses, Hot Mess is conducive to a sweaty summer night at a club after having one too many Redbulls. Be warned: If you’re not up for fluffy experimental muzak, don’t add this to your iTunes library.