The Cobras dim the lights on their fourth album- and the take-outs are mixed.

I'm not sure whether the band - now down to the core of singer Rachel Nagy and guitarist Mary Ramirez (nee Restrepo) plus hired hands - is world-weary or just weary. Along for the ride is The Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright on guitar so it's not as if they didn't have some inspired help. There just seem not to be that many inspiring moments among the baker's dozen of obscure (and not so obscure) tunes.

Nagy's sultry vocals are again on the money but maybe it's the understated tone that runs throughout that holds things back. I don't expect this band to over-work the "girls in the garage" thing to the point of parody but they just sound like they're having much fun.

Best moments are the re-working of Irma Thomas' "The Hurt's All Gone" and "Only To Other People" (originally by The Cookies) where the lilting guitar lifts up the song. "Nothing But a Heartache" nearly takes flight too but gets grounded by a down draught.

This is by no means a fizzer for the World's Greatest Cover Band but not a runaway winner either.

Tired and True? - The Barman


BABY - The Detroit Cobras (Rough Trade/Shock)
If you get the feeling that you've heard some of these tracks before it's because you have - especially if you're aged 40-50 and grew up listening to radio in the American Midwest.

All but one of the tracks ("Hot Dog") on this, the third long-player for Michigan's Detroit Cobras is a cover. You got a problem with that? Let's not dwell on the point made by others that the Cobras are The Best Cover Band in the World - even if it is true. It's one of those horrible absolute statements like: "I have seen the future of rock and roll" (code for "I am a wanker") or "the only band that matters" (which only raises the question: "To whom?"). This is a band that produces gushing adulation amongst its supporters, and the odd barb from those who are not. In short, what these people in the affirmative camp are trying to say is that the Detroit Cobras are The Shit. And I'm with them.

A baker's dozen from the Midwestern airwaves of the early and late '60s and not a clunker among 'em. Can you do better than that? And finally the Detroit Cobras secure a local (read: Australian) release PLUS they're coming down for shows. That is a reason to party.

And if you're a fan of rock and soul there's no better band to party to. Geelong-raised former exotic dancer Rachel Nagy has a soulful, blues rock voice to kill for. Great range and that slink factor hits the spot. She's working with twin guitars (Mary Restrepo and Steve Nawara) and a deft rhythm section that collectively has enormous respect for the rock that they're chipping away at. What many would give to rifle through their record (note: reference to archaic medium) collections. Much, if not most, of their set is re-worked from the pickings of travails through second-hand record stores in and around Detroit.

From the rousing opener "Slippin' Around" to the closing "Cha Cha Twist" (so good a song they reprised it from their "Mink Rat or Rabbit" album), this is not so much reverrent, but more definitely celebratory, rock and roll.

"Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" (aka "Baby Let Me Follow You Down", if you want to go back to early Dylan) has been oft-covered, but not as well as this. "I Want to Holler (But the Town's Too Small)" slips into a fine groove, "Everybody's Going Wild" rocks and "It's Raining" occupies that position on an album usually given over to the tender ballad. An album full of contrasts.

Rachel Nagy's vocals might be the centrepiece but this is no one woman band. Props to the engine room, who might have been a bit more prominent in the mix but we can't have everything.

On the count of authoritative garage rock site Grunnenrocks, this is the sixth line-up in seven-plus years with Ms Nagy and Ms Restrepo the only originals, but if you care to slip into the back catalogue you'll find the ever evolving line-ups have been amazingly consistent. Still, they've probably saved their best for now. It's a close run thing with "Mink Rat or Rabbit" neck-and-neck. - The Barman

LIFE, LOVE AND LEAVING - The Detroit Cobras (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
I'll admit to being somewhat divided about distaff voices in "our" kind of rock'n'roll. (Of course, in a better world, this wouldn't even be an ISSUE, but...)

"Punk" kinda opened the floodgates for all kindsa brawds with varying degrees of not-much vocal prowess (Lydia Lunch, Exene, Wendy O. Williams). I disliked the "novelty" aspect of bands like Blondie and the B-52s. I wasn't a big fan of the Runaways, although I DID see Joan Jett pretty conclusively wipe the stage with Iggy one night back in '80. The less said about Niagara (of Destroy All Monsters/Dark Carnival fame) the better. The first Pretenders album remains a watershed, I think; hissy Miss Chrissie proved that she could front a band "as good as a man," yes indeed. I couldn't really understand Scott Morgan ceding a hefty chunk of the vocals on the "Rock Action" and "Scots Pirates" albums to his then-girlfriend Kathy Deschaine. I like the IDEA of the Donnas better than I do anything of theirs I've heard. Ditto the riot grrrls my daughter has bent my ear with, like Bitch Magnet and Seven Year Bitch.

This new Detrot Cobras record is something else entirely. (And thanks to Bro.. Irv Girshman in San Francisco for sharing it.) First of all, Rachael Nagy can really, REALLY sing...boasts pipes on the order of Ronnie Spector or one of those classic girl group era sirens, in fact (which is saying an awful lot here in the Age of the Non-Singer). Her band includes another capable femme, Maribel Restrepo, on guitar, and Black Crowes' keyboardist Eddie Hawrsch (a Detroit boy himself) on bass. They play a brand of rockin' early-'60s style R&B that you hardly hear anymore, without emphasizing its potentially corny retro aspects.

The program on "Life, Love and Leaving" consists entirely of obscure arranbee chestnuts...with the exception of Otis Redding's "Shout Bamalama," I'd never heard of any of 'em, although I DID recognize a few of the songwriting credits (Jackie DeShannon, Otis Blackwell, Solomon Burke, Mary Wells, the famous wife-beater Ike Turner, Mitch Ryder, Clyde McPhatter). It doesn't matter. Invite over a bunch of people, throw on this record, crank up the volume, and watch the party start.

I double-damn defy you to listen to "Hey Sailor," "He Did It," "Stupidity," "Boss Lady," or "Right Around the Corner" without wanting to cut a rug. (And you probably thought you were too fuckin' KEWL, right?) Go ahead...there are lotsa worse things to do in these days and times than purely acting the fool, and you might even feel better as a result.- Ken Shimamoto