Much excitement in Villain Towers today. Dirk from Sexy Loser has been in touch. He’s one of the longest-serving contributors to the blog going waaaaaaay back to the former place. I still can’t get over the idea that someone from Germany is such a devotee of all things John Peel and has a such a wealth of knowledge of and love for indie music of a vintage and subsequent era. And his command of English always put me to shame. Here’s what he had to say…
Normally, dear friends, coverbands rather are an atrocity, they exist to – more or less – “entertain” you at family parties. The Detroit Cobras from, obviously, Detroit, though take the cover business seriously and they are doing this perfectly fine since 1994. The music that the band play is a mix of soul, Motown, R&B and R&R, that is literally stripped from Mary Ramirez’ and her music partner in crime, singer Rachel Nagy’s record collections.
The Detroit Cobras — with one song, Hot Dog, being the exception — play other people’s music, but more specifically they cover other artists’ B-sides and deep cuts, and they do so with such a raw and ferocious energy that the songs rarely sound anything like the original versions, but all of them end up sounding like Cobra songs.
The band is known for multiple lineup changes, Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound (aka Greg Oblivian of The Oblivians) has been a constant creative force along with Nagy and Ramirez, who have been around since the group’s genesis. The male members’ fluctuation sometimes reminds me of the Italian government, so it doesn’t make all too much sense to go into detail here. Then again: who cares at all, the men in this combo are just accessory parts whereas especially singer Rachel Nagy – the Cobras’ secret weapon/human tornado, a mesmerizing mash up of Dusty Springfield, Neko Case, Chrissie Hynde and Ronnie Spector – but also guitarist Mary Ramirez are the bad girls by the exit doors at the school dance, all leather and heels, sneaking smokes and passing the flask. They have no time for dewy-eyed love songs or girl group decorum; they’ll take care of business themselves with a bat of the eye or an elbow to the kidney!
The group has released five and a half (Seven Easy Pieces consists of just – some of you will already have guessed it – seven tunes, so does that make it a real album? I don’t know …) full-length albums to date, and on all of them they whip out ass-shaking anthems to good times, wild times, and the high and lows of L-U-V; you best believe it and you best not mess with it: ‘cos the Cobras are THE go-to party band for those in the know. Sure, it’s red-blooded and raw, but it’s also as beautiful as it is brassy. In other words, bad girls make good!
You should hope and pray that they play your party. I certainly hope that one fine day they’ll play mine … and if they do, I’ll invite all of you, promised!
Here’s their album – discography:
– ‘Mink Rat Or Rabbit’ (Sympathy For The Records Industry Records, 1998)
– ‘Life, Love Or Leaving’ (Sympathy For The Records Industry Records, 2001)
– ‘Seven Easy Pieces’ (Rough Trade 2003)
– ‘Baby’ (Rough Trade 2004)
– ‘Tied And True’ (Rough Trade 2007)
– ‘The Original Recordings’ (Munster Records 2008)
It was a really hard task to choose just 10 songs out of the above, because all of those albums are killers without fillers, apart from Tied And True. It’s not a bad album, but if I had to decide between the two, I would spend my money on the compilation of their early work, The Original Recordings.
Either way, without further ado, here’s what I regard to be the mighty Detroit Cobras’ 10 best songs …. yes, it’s 11, I admit, but they all are so short, so I thought I could get away with it … let’s just call the last one a bonus- or a hidden track, you won’t complain, alright, JC? Nevertheless it is a monster of a tune, quite contrary to their ‘standard’ work, so watch out for it …. and enjoy:
01 – ‘Hey Sailor’ (from ‘Life, Love Or Leaving’, a Mickey Lee Lane – cover)
02 – ‘Village Of Love’ (Peel Session – version, rec. 2003, their second 7″ from 1996, a Nathaniel Mayer – cover)
03 – ‘Out Of This World’ (from ‘Mink Rat Or Rabbit’, a Gino Washington – cover)
04 – ‘Right Around The Corner’ (from Life, Love Or Leaving, a Rose Marie McCoy & Charles Singleton – cover)
05 – ‘I Wanna Holler (But The Town’s Too Small)’ (from ‘Baby’, a Frank Guida / Patricia Matthews / Joseph Royster – cover)
06 – ‘My Baby Loves The Secret Agent’ (from ‘Seven Easy Pieces’, a Fred Sledge Smith – cover)
07 – ‘Cha Cha Twist’ (from ‘Mink Rat Or Rabbit’, a Hank Ballard / Les McCann – cover)
08 – ‘Down In Louisiana’ (from ‘The Original Recordings’, their third 7″ from 1996, cover of a traditional song)
09 – ‘Shout Bama Lama’ (from Life, Love Or Leaving’, an Otis Redding – cover)
10 – ‘Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)’ (from ‘Baby’, the only song the Cobras ever wrote themselves)
Hidden bonus track:
11 – ‘Last Nite’ (from ‘Various Artists: Stop Me If You Think You Heard This Before’ (2003), a Strokes – cover)
Dirk aka Sexy Loser
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Hey Sailor
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Village of Love
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Out of This World
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Right Around The Corner
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – I Wanna Holler (But This Town’s Too Small)
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – My Baby Loves The Secret Agent
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Cha Cha Twist
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Down In Louisiana
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Shout Bama Lama
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)
mp3 : The Detroit Cobras – Last Nite
9 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #34 DETROIT COBRAS”
Always good to read something written by the ever interesting Dirk.
I am familiar with about half of these songs and look forward to becoming familiar with the other half.
Eagerly awaiting my party invitation Dirk!
I love the Detroit Cobras. They are everything Dirk says they are. Have to say that the second half of your third paragraph (where you describe Rachel and Mary as “the bad girls by the exit” is sublime, as good a description of a band as I’ve read in a very long time.
Brill comp. We could argue all day about the tracklist, but it would be pointless.
By far and away the best compilation album in the series. Toptastic band.
Love this entry and very glad to see the Cobras getting their respect. Tough to pick just 10 but I’d have included “Boss Lady” — sums up the band in one chorus!
He’s done it again! Dirk pops up with a brilliant piece of prose that leaves us all wanting more. Detroit Cobras (and the aforementioned Reigning Sound) are both worthy of one of these comps. Well done.
Thanks VERY MUCH to all of you for your nice words! Glad you liked my picks ….
didn’t they do the mighty Underdog? should be on every imaginasry album! thx – can’t wait to rock out to this one.
Files are dead…Any chance of a re-up? I know them only from one song recorded off the radio.
Drop me a e-mail and I’ll take it from there.