Cobra Skulls: Agitations

Photo: Katie Hovlan

Shades of The Clash in the Reno trio's third full-length...

Cobra Skulls


Label: Fat Wreck Chords
US Release Date: 2011-09-27
UK Release Date: 2011-11-07

Reno, Nevada's Cobra Skulls are undeniably a punk band — they play hard, fast, guitar-driven outbursts of fury masquerading as songs, few of which last longer than three minutes. But the band knows too that to make any kind of memorable mark on the music scene, something more is necessary: tunes.

As in, melodies, and maybe a few hollered harmony lines if you're feeling adventurous. Cobra Skulls incorporate both, along with radical innovations such as tempo shifts and lyrics that amount to more than free-floating adolescent aggro. Album opener "Six Degrees" is a catchy, fast number that might be targeting global warming — "Six degrees will bring us to our knees" — but then again, it might be about something else altogether.

"Iron Lung" follows, with a few memorable lines of its own: "So many ways to break a man, and make woman forget / Life we know is but a dream — but they don't have my dream yet". Okay, so it's not Tolstoy, or even Neil Young, but it’s clever and pithy. Singer Devin Peralta specializes in such lines, delivered with a raspy eartnestness reminiscent of Joe Strummer, and yes, I know exactly what a compliment that is.

"The Mess" begins to show the band's range, utilizing a slow opening and a stuttering rhythm in the chorus. Sad to say, few punk bands bother to try different sections in their songs, but this album is filled with multi-part tunes, even though most, like this one, barely top two minutes. That said, if you're a six-string freak looking for guitar solos, you'd best look elsewhere. "All Drive" comes midway through the record and is probably the best song here, which is to say it’s pretty damn good. Peralta's spitfire vocal delivery layers over an urgent bed of guitars and percussion and, again, a melody line and chord progression that worms its way into the listener's ear and snuggles up a while. This is followed by "Drones", which is nearly as good, though it throws a curveball with its lounge-act intro and break halfway through. Don't like it? Hey, it's only 82 seconds.

As if making the point that their bag of tricks is still burgeoning, "The Mockery" utilizes acoustic guitar and twee singing to lull the listener — although at this point, it's doubtful that too many listeners will be lulled. "The Minimum" is a straightforward rock tune that takes aim at an economy that treats workers as disposable units: "We're all too big to fail, so can we bail out everyone? / Not afraid to labor but I need so much more than the minimum". It's refreshing, to say the least, to hear a punk band taking swipes at real-world issues, notwithstanding the limitations imposed by a two-minute song or four-line verse.

Album closer "Believe" opens with acoustic guitar but forgoes the expected jump into high-octane thrash. Instead, a surprisingly melodic song unfolds, a statement of purpose and conviction that as touching in its way as The Clash's "Garageland", which closed out that band's first album. "Believe" is a worthy successor in that tradition. And yes — I know just how big a compliment that is, too.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.