A few years ago, Black Moth Super Rainbow went to the big city. While they were there, they made an album called Eating Us, with famed producer Dave Fridmann. It put a nice suit on the band’s shaggy, perpetually woozy psych-pop, and cleaned things up a bit for better or worse. Then, everyone went their separate ways for a while. Leader/vocalist/synth master Tobacco ambled into the Anticon camp for two albums’ worth of more hip-hop oriented solo material (including a couple of Beck collaborations to boot). The Seven Fields of Aphelion put out a solo album of her own, while guitarist Ryan Graveface kept the lights on at Graveface Records, surviving an extremely damaging flood situation that threatened the label’s entire inventory. This year, the wandering leader returned with several different sounds he picked up on his travels. The band reconvened in their wilderness recording bunker, and cranked out an album called Cobra Juicy, and all was right in the Black Moth-iverse once again.
An overdramatization, of course, but the main point remains: Cobra Juicy presents a band revitalized and back in their own element, reclaiming their more bass-heavy (pre-Eating Us), analog synth-driven sound while steering it into more structured songwriting territory. Additional guitar crunch is present on opener “Windshield Smasher,” one of the most driving BMSR songs to date, while closer “Spraypaint” finds Tobacco’s vocoder-laden vocals approximating something like an R&B ballad. “I Think I’m Evil”‘s squelchy low and corroded opening leads recall Tobacco’s Fucked Up Friends material, and “Gangs In The Garden” finds the band digging Daft Punk’s Human After All vocal presets out of some dumpster and revving them up for a two-stepping dance party out in some forest.
But even while certain elements of the BMSR songwriting process have been streamlined, the group still finds ways to disorient. On “Hairspray Heart,” Graveface’s guitar stabs and a series of spiraling synth parts fly about, when all of a sudden Tobacco plunges his vocals into a stomach-rattling low register for the chorus, which is, of course, about “sucking out poison from a snakebite.” It’s just one example of the band’s well-established ability to inject sinister sentiments into songs that consistently jam the pleasure button in terms of hooks, revealing the disturbing once the euphoria has begun to dissipate. It’s easy to get caught up in the twisty leads of “Gangs In The Garden” and not realize that lyrically, it’s a song seemingly about demanding devotion to some bizarre friendship cult.
Speaking of cults, Cobra Juicy is being released on the band’s own Rad Cult imprint, funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, furthering the theme of self-reclamation that runs throughout the whole thing. The members of Black Moth Super Rainbow have always valued their anonymity, and while Eating Us and their various solo pursuits found them sticking their necks out into the world at large, Cobra Juicy proves that their self-imposed isolation once again yields the best results.