CD Review of While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets by Cobra Starship

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While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets
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Released: 2006
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If all you knew about Cobra Starship was that they were responsible for the theme song for “Snakes on a Plane” – “Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)” – there’d never be any reason for you to take them seriously, let alone expect their debut album, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets, to be any good. As it turns out, however, the album is a hoot…possibly because the band’s de facto leader, Gabe Saporta, isn’t taking it seriously, either.

By day, Saporta is lead singer and bassist for Midtown – you may remember them for their 2004 Butch Walker-produced album, Forget What You Know – but he teamed up with members of the Sounds, Gym Class Heroes, and The Academy Is… to record “Bring It (Snakes on a Plane).” Now here’s where it gets a little confusing, because that vaguely all-star line-up didn’t record anything else on While the City Sleeps. For the rest of the album, Saporta plays with Ryland Blackinton and Alex Suarez (of the Ivy League), former Armor for Sleep drum tech Nate Navarro, and Elisa Schwartz, who, if can be believed, has no credits to her name whatsoever. And to throw another wrench into the works, Saporta didn’t actually use anyone from either lineup to help him with the writing of the non-“Snakes” songs on the album; instead, he worked predominantly with the duo who produced the record, S*A*M (Sam Hollander) and SLUGGO (Dave Katz), although Ted Leo – he of the Pharmacists – sneaks in a co-write on the groovy “Keep It Simple.”

Anyway, long story short, it’s Saporta’s project, and he’s having a ball with it. The two-minute song that opens the album offers no apology for the intentionally brainless fun to follow; it’s entitled “Being from Jersey Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry,” and it finds him singing, “Can you hear me now? / That I’m dumbing myself down / Is it filling you with doubt / That I am who you thought?” The thing is, Saporta isn’t dumbing anything down at all; he’s pulling together the best bits by a bunch of artists who take themselves too seriously, and he’s going out of his way to have fun with his interpretation of their sounds.

Take “Pop-Punk Is Sooooo ’05,” for example, where he takes on all those bands that sound the same and score one hit before vanishing back into oblivion. “Flash never lasts,” he assures them in – what else – a pop-punk song, adding, “You’re just a boy who’s afraid of the dark / What you’ve got means shit to me / I’m not impressed by the dress and the sex that you bought.” There’s “Send My Love to the Dancefloor, I’ll See You in Hell (Hey Mr. DJ),” which is screaming for a proper remix in order to spread the Cobra Starship message to the discothèque. “The Kids Are All Fucked Up” is all about the synthesizers, just as “It’s Amateur Night at the Appollo Creed!” is about the electronic drums (with a little bit of vocoder action at around the 2:10 mark). (Yes, the spelling of “Appollo” is correct, and, no, I don’t have any idea what the hell the title of that song has to do with anything.) Anyone who makes it past “Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)” and actually still thinks Cobra Starship are serious will be quickly corrected with “The Ballad of Big Poppa and Diamond Girl,” where Saporta croons, “I’ll be your Biggie, you’ll be my Lil’ Kim.”

Perhaps predictably, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets had a solid first week of sales, then dropped off dramatically; not coincidentally, it’s the exact same fate suffered by the film that gave them their initial public exposure. It’s ironic that one should need a slightly elevated sense of humor to properly appreciate dumb fun, but here’s concrete proof that that’s exactly the case.

~Will Harris