If you want to get really bitter about it, one could argue that Thomas Fec has made one hell of a career out of sounding like Thomas Fec.
While his standalone name may not ring any immediate bells, his two big projects — Tobacco and Black Moth Super Rainbow — certainly do. Thomas Fec is Tobacco, and Tobacco is the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow, who used to be called satanstompingcaterpillars, who used to … well, the mythology of the group is long and full of elliptical loopholes of noise and enough gooey pop melodies to fill a candy store as run by Salvador Dali, but when the collective officially turned into BMSR in 2003, things started lining up for the group: they honed in on a very unique, vocoder-assisted brand of psychedelic electronic music that sounds like no other band out there right now. While certain detractors can accuse the band of continuing to release albums that sound remarkably similar to each other with only slight variations, the truth of the matter is that Fec and his comrades are slowly, surely turning out one heck of a career creating the hazy lullabies fit for aliens and stoners alike.
So while Cobra Juicy, the band’s first album since 2009’s slightly more subdued Eating Us, carries on riding the same lush, echo-drenched grooves that helped define the band’s greatest moments, there is a bit more of a bite this time out, as the band is unafraid to add in some harsher guitars this time round. Unfortunately, this is only for a few tracks, as the rest of Cobra Juicy sounds just like what you’d expect from a Black Moth Super Rainbow album — although there’s nothing wrong with that in the least.
Things open with the strutting “Windshield Smasher”, which is the aural approximation of the band smoking while wearing leather jackets, the unadorned electrics serving as a nice contrast to Fec’s perpetually-heavenly synth work. Continuing in that vein, “I Think I’m Evil” features the same trick but with a bit more of an edge to it, although try as they might, the group simply cannot shake their knack for a lush pop melody. Although the group sometimes uses these tricks to make their sometimes-abrasive lyrics go down smoothly (the mid-tempo “Hairspray Heart” sets a new personal record for the band in number of F-bombs dropped in one song), Fec’s lovesick poetry is still one of the most underappreciated aspects of BMSR’s sound, his lyrics often discounted simply because of his refusal to not use his trademark vocoder.
Yet even if this causes the occasional problem of the vocals sometimes blurring together, making it hard to fully differentiate certain songs from each other, the band continues to once again offer up a healthy amount of unique sonic diversions to keep things fresh. “Gangs in the Garden” is a marvelously funky workout (and the vocals take on a harsher, more robotic texture this time out, adding a new level of distinctiveness), “We Burn” sounds a lot like a Mellow Gold-era Beck track (which isn’t all that much of a stretch given Beck’s vocal contributions on the last Tobacco solo album), and, best of all, there’s “Psychic Love Damage”, which is one of the lightest, sweetest ballads the group has ever managed to pull off.
Of course, there are still a lot of tracks on Cobra Juicy that sound like they could fit on almost any era of BMSR. “Blurring My Day” and the anticlimactic closer “Spraypaint” come to mind, but even with that said, none of these songs are out-and-out bad, they’re just generic: unmistakably BMSR but indistinct in their large body of work.
So while Cobra Juicy does offer fans a few new elements to what has become the group’s trademark sound, BMSR’s aesthetic is largely unchanged — they’re still the psychedelic synth-rockers you know and love, and while Cobra Juicy does occasionally flirt with the extraordinary, it ultimately settles for just being “quite good.” While some may bicker and argue over that fact, there is nothing inherently wrong with it, as sometimes you just want your Black Moth Super Rainbow to sound like Black Moth Super Rainbow.