Glam misreadings

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Nightlife, Cobra Verde’s second full-length since 1994 (after a hiatus to be Bob Pollard’s backup band for Guided By Voices), is a tight, concerted effort at marking out its own rock ‘n’ roll territory in American independent music. Unfortunately, CV’s musical problems do not lie in the band’s chops. Rather Verde, which is run by the Bob Pollardlike John Petkovic (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, writing, production, tape loops, art concept, etc.), is firmly rooted in an ill-fated translation of two influential rock traditions: classic rock, à la the ‘70s hand-clapping stadium vision of Cheap Trick, and glam, as exemplified by Diamond Dogs-era Bowie, LA-era Stooges, and anything from the Bolan catalog.

The result is an art rock version of Faster Pussycat.

Lyrically, what CV (Petkovic) does is update mid-’80s hair rock for a more ironic, highly educated indie-buying public, by grafting its themes (rock ‘n’ roll, groupies, alcohol, misogyny) to the more contemporary (?) terrain of glam (rock ‘n’ roll, sexually ambiguous wastoids, suicide, misogyny). Examples abound, such as the album’s opener, "One Step Away From Myself," where Petkovic’s old-man-in-the-throes-of-orgasm tenor sings about love and violence as homicidal twins ("Help me load my last round and steady the trigger / waking next to you I am real"). The nasty-mix eventually leads Petkovic to resentfully ask his girl (who’s always dreaming "‘bout her genocide"), "How does it feel to feel?"

The rest of the album continues in this vein, the band doing its best to embody the vision of the champagne-fisting, make-up-heavy glam princess who graces the cover of the record, while Petkovic gleefully coos about women who "kiss the blood off (his) hands" ("Casino"). A thoroughly successful, album-long rewrite of "American Woman" for a college-educated (male) market that needs to feel the rock while indulging in their ideological blindness.

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