For nine weeks now, I’ve been meaning to write this column, but I kept getting distracted by stuff like the Keyboard Cat and Pretty Ricky’s latest round of furniture-humping histrionics. And that’s somewhat fitting, given that this column is about [artist id=”2402281″]Cobra Starship[/artist], a band that has turned messing around on the Internet into an absolute art form.
And I’m not saying that to be dismissive of their success or because hyperkinetic party machine/ frontman Gabe Saporta sort of dresses like a blog, but rather, because, well … it’s true. Cobra Starship are a musical meme, the band equivalent of every groin shot, epic fail and outrageous bit of bodily harm you’ve ever watched YouTube or e-mailed to a million co-workers. Theirs is a brilliance reserved for the zeitgeist-grabbing Tay Zondays or Chris Crockers of the world. It’s stupid smart. Genius dumb. And this is something to be proud of.
Witness CobraCam.tv, an episodic site they launched nine weeks ago to promote their upcoming Hot Mess album (due August 11). This is a very clinical description of it, however, as it is “promotional” only inasmuch as it features the members of Cobra Starship. More correctly, it’s a sort of sketch-comedy showcase/ pop-culture blender/ “WTF is going on?” bonanza. It’s the kind of thing a million bands (and a billion kids on YouTube) try to do but always fail miserably at, because they are simply not funny — or stupid or clever or dedicated — enough to pull it off. Cobra Starship are all those things, and then some.
Over the course of nine sublimely silly installments, they’ve spilled gallons of blood, poked fun at [artist id=”510062″]Lil Wayne’s[/artist] prodigious face tattoos, grown fake beards, harassed their merch guy, assaulted steaks with axes, attempted to grow breasts (keytarist Vicky Asher won that one by default), hawked cleaning products and cologne, performed surgery, rode a jackalope and wore more costumes than [artist id=”3061469″]Lady Gaga[/artist]. They’ve poked fun at the industry, British people, their fellow bands and, most importantly, themselves. None of it makes very much sense, and lord knows how we’re supposed to be gleaning any information about Hot Mess, but none of that matters. Because it’s all hilarious. And because, well, it’s Cobra Starship. The music is almost secondary.
And if that last line comes off as harsh, well, I’d be willing to bet the guys (and gal) in CS would agree with me. With Cobra, the comedy is the thing. And that’s more than evident on CobraCam.
There’s a deft comic touch on display here — truly some of the funniest moments come in the throwaway lines or the odd cutaway shot — and a fondness for the bizarre that recalls stuff like “The Kids in the Hall” or the British version of “The Office” (or even, to blaspheme a bit more, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”). There are smart, subtle references to stuff like “The Big Lebowski” and Vince Offer and “St. Elsewhere” and Wes Anderson’s slo-mo tracking shots (there’s even a nod to “Goodfellas” in episode six, though I’m not sure the band even realizes it). And, of course, a collegiate dedication to getting wasted: Cobra Starship are, at the end of a day, a party band.
But here’s another one to throw at you: Cobra Starship are also a comedy troupe. Each member has a role (Saporta is the boozing lout, Asher the silent straight-woman, etc.), and as is the case with all great troupes, there is one breakout star. In Cobra’s case, it’s guitarist Ryland Blackington, a gangly, rubber-faced combination of “SNL”-era Chevy Chase and “Kids in the Hall”-era Kevin McDonald who positively carries the majority of the CobraCam stuff (check episodes two, six and nine for proof). Of course, bassist Alex Suarez and drummer Nate Novarro are pretty good too. Say what you will about Cobra Starship, but they definitely have the funniest rhythm section in the business.
And that’s sort of the point of all this, I suppose. As a band, Cobra Starship are a really great sketch-comedy troupe, and CobraCam is the proof. Their dedication — and, make no bones about it, to keep churning out episodes of quality stuff takes dedication — to the stupid, the insane and the subtle is what sets them apart from their contemporaries, and it’s all on display here. I’m not sure how any of this will help Hot Mess (do “funny” bands sell records? We Are Scientists sure didn’t), though that probably doesn’t matter. Love them or hate them, CS have always been fun-first, music-second, and that’s why kids pack their shows and throw the fangs in the air. In fact, it’s a sort of brilliant niche they’ve carved out, if you think about it. They’ve quietly become the court jesters of pop music. More proof that you’ve got to be pretty smart to be this stupid.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.
Watch an extra Cobra Cam clip on the MTV Buzzworthy Blog.