The air of enigma wafting around certain bands has never been something that’s truly appealed to my somewhat whimsical fancies. You know, people kinda want to know who they’re admiring and being inspired by. They need to be greeted with a familiar face gleaming down upon them from in amongst the particle-vaporising spotlights of any which stage. Masks etc. aren’t exactly my thing, therefore, though if you’re channeling musics as consistently challenging as Pittsburgh’s Black Moth Super Rainbow are, and have been doing for a decade (give or take) then exceptions can, and must, be made. It was the saccharine-scented experimental (though mostly out-and-out mental) psych stuffs of Dandelion Gum back in ’07 that had me stuck on the inscrutable troupe’s irrevocably weird, and mostly wonderful kaleidoscopic vibes. Its ’09 follow-up, Eating Us, veered a little closer to something a tad more conventional, if The Flaming Lips may be deemed in any way orthodox. Though Wayne Coyne et al. may now be becoming increasingly ordinary (a drastic shift in no way indebted to the Oklahomans’ resident knob whiz, and incidentally the producer of this Eating Us aforesaid, Dave Fridmann) the fifth full-length effort emitted from the Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy, signals a venomous return to a polychromatic vibrancy. It’s a work of innumerable colours, and appositely harlequin tones; a jazzy masterpiece of garish juxtaposition.
And with juxtaposition of course comes coincidence. That they be lead by one going by the nom de plume of Tobacco is but one, for Cobra Juicy is one heck of an addictive record. I couldn’t fathom indulging in just the one dose – instead, it’s one I’ve left smoking for the past month or so, and have been getting sozzled on daily. And this is perhaps where it differs from previous endeavours: for here the momentarily impenetrable cosmic vibes of yore are stripped back, and rerolled with some rather more oneiric electro to then be enwrapped in a tight Rizla of accessibility. Hairspray Heart, for instance, palpitates to a tune that contains more than a shard of Spears’ Piece Of Me in there somewhere. I say somewhere, for the track represents a heavy fug of gloopy squelches and crisp, crunchy guitars, quasi-seductive lyricisms of “So juicy/ Confuse me” only adding to the overriding aesthetic of dangerously contorted pop. Those of “Falling like a fucking diamond” which continue to cascade ad infinitum do so to a lesser extent.
Though at its palpitating internal organ is this poppish sensibility. From whence has it come? Fuck only knows. The likelihood of Greatest Hits: My Prerogative serving as an inspiratory cornerstone of Cobra Juicy is about as likely as Britney is to ever demonstrate any form of decorum or public decency, but this dusting with propensities pop really befits Black Moth Super Rainbow. If U Seek Amy, it’s absolutely Toxic.
We Burn, guided through what sounds like the lashed slo-mo mind of Raoul Duke mid-Mint 4000 and addled by much mescaline by Ryan Graveface’s tumbleweed acoustics, doesn’t fit with this reversion to a more populist approach. Nor does the downright woozy Dreamsicle Bomb, for that matter. Vocoded chants of ransacking indeterminate neighbourhoods instead lend an impression of sleazesters françaises Air with a bastard firmly lodged behind the eyes, and this is another effect favoured throughout much of Cobra Juicy. Whether that’s the rollicking synth throbs of Gangs in the Garden, or the daydream goo in which Blurring My Day comes smeared aspects of the LP play like Moon Safari, were such lunar explorations perpetuated by sightings of walking, talking acid tabs and scratchy, though amicable animations courtesy of Ralph Steadman.
Psychic Love Damage even sounds like a more sedate Spiritualized – the soundtrack to that jellyish ascent through the outer atmospheres and Airs moonward and beyond, toward the light radiating at the end of the tube, tunnel, or whatever other oesophagus-like lift it may be to take us up to the divine mouth where our mortal sins are chewed up and weighed in, and our eternal realities may be decided. Its mallow-mellow slides conjure that only gently groggy feel of mid-afternoon awakening – all manner of indescribable shapes drifting across your vision as grotty microbes trundle from one side of the lens to t’other.
Though it’s when Tobacco & co. opt for the pure, simple, and inimitable that they’re at their most habitually compelling: the pseudo-sentimental splurge of Spraypaint, in which his heavily manipulated vocal croons of how “all the colours turn to grey” when not in the company of some ambiguous you. Or alternatively the viscous bloops and syncopated blotches of crystalline bass on Like a Sundae, on which shrivelled tones tell of microwaved smiles and sundaes “burning in my eyes”.
A finely whipped sundae in itself, it’s one sprinkled with this and drizzled with that though somehow, as though ricotta and chocolate in the most calorific cheesecake their native Pennsylvania could ever muster, it’s perhaps their most cohesive piece yet. Indeed, it’s not far off, if not their pièce de résistance, truth be known. Well worth a scoff.
Released: December 10th, 2012 [Rad Cult]