Allison Stewart on “Cobra Starship” by Hot Mess

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Cobra Starship

N.Y.C. scenesters, online meme generators and sometime musicians Cobra Starship will do pretty much anything, which is a hard quality to dislike in a band. Their third release isn't so much a coherent musical offering as a grouping of things Cobra Starship probably likes, thrown into a blender until frothy. They include: chiptune, the Killers, bands that sound like the Killers, the Thompson Twins, AutoTune, songs about Cobra Starship, synthesizers, Hall & Oates references (lyrics from "Maneater" wind up in the middle of the throbbing "Living in the Sky With Diamonds"; it's best not to ask why) and laser noises.

"Hot Mess" sounds like what would have happened if Fall Out Boy and the Strokes had made an album together in 2007, with electro-inspired dance-floor beats substituting for FOB's emo punk-lite, and the same attention to singsong choruses and hyper-meta lyrics: Like FOB, all the Starship's songs are about themselves or Pete Wentz, their longtime compatriot and the ostensible subject of the disc's best track, the buzzy, '80s-reminiscent disco-punk ditty "Pete Wentz Is the Only Reason We're Famous."

Into the writhing center of this jar of marshmallow fluff descends "Gossip Girl" actress Leighton Meester. She, or her AutoTuned approximation, guests on "Good Girls Go Bad," a cheesy and sublime pop track that simultaneously cemented the band's reputation (it was a huge hit) and shattered their cred (it was co-written by "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi). It's around this time that the charismatic, frenetic "Hot Mess" starts to feel draining, its knowing winks start to feel like elbows to the ribs, and the whole thing begins to feel like the musical equivalent of "G.I. Joe," a guilty pleasure that exhausts as much as it pleases.

-- Allison Stewart

Cobra Starship performs at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Aug. 26.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Good Girls Go Bad," "Pete Wentz Is the Only Reason We're Famous"

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