For a band as deliberately enigmatic as they are, Black Moth Super Rainbow have, especially in recent years, stuck pretty close to formula. With each passing album it's become pretty easy to predict what to expect. From front man Tobacco's vocals vocoded to within an inch of their lives to the juxtaposition of childlike melodies with harsh and distorted instrumentation, and vice-versa. And on the surface Cobra Juicy seems like no exception, it's a clear continuation of the more accessible style of 2008's Eating Us and certainly these elements are all present and accounted for but underneath lies a tightly composed and energetic electronic pop record.
Cobra Juicy opens with the lead single 'Windshield Smasher', which races along with a bouncing, clipped drum beat and distorted guitar riff that could easily have showed up on Queen's of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf. But before long the shining keyboards and robotic vocals show up and pull the track in a completely different direction. With its pounding momentum and unexpected feel change in the chorus it shows that Super Rainbow still have a few surprises up their sleeves. Unfortunately it's followed immediately by 'Like A Sundae', which despite an unnervingly chipper melody that feels like the soundtrack to a doped up walk in the park, just feels like nothing you haven't heard dozens of times before.
The best moments on Cobra Juicy come from Super Rainbow's glossy production being undercut by a decidedly rock 'n' roll aesthetic. The albums finest moment, 'Hairspray Heart' begins with the same clipped, distorted guitar as 'Windshield Smasher' that provides the basis for a dense, menacing track full of harsh, layered synths and stark lyricism. 'We Burn' is a straightforward hip-hop groove, the lazy feel of the beat accentuated by the delay and reverb soaked keys. And 'I Think I'm Evil' sounds as thought Tobacco and company are channelling the spirit of Paranoid era Black Sabbath directly into a vintage synthesiser.
As the album hits its middle section the cracks begin to show in earnest, 'Gangs in the Garden' just comes across as a slightly less polished attempt at a Hot Chip impersonation and 'The Healing Power of Nothing' and 'Dreamsicle Bomb' could easily have shown up on any one of Super Rainbow's previous albums with nothing new to set them apart. Fortunately the album ends on a high note, with 'Spraypaint'. A textured and strangely uplifting ode to lost love that serves to remind the listener that even through Super Rainbow's own unique prism the potential for beauty is still there.
Cobra Juicy is one of those strange albums to criticise because there are no moments in it that could be truly describes as bad; overall it's a very well assembled record with some real standout moments. The issue is that when you're dealing with a band that sells itself so heavily on it's own inscrutable image the more you hear the less unusual, and therefore interesting, it becomes, it's the old horror movie idea that the monster becomes less scary each time you see it and while they may not be there yet Black Moth Super Rainbow are skirting dangerously close to Freddy's Dead territory.