When I first heard about the Detroit Cobras last year, I was advised by Carl I should see their show. He said their sound was like The Stooges meets Motown. Flying on this tip, I gave it a go. But when I got to the venue I was informed that show was sold out and my snowy trek across town was all in vain. So when they came back a few weeks ago, I made sure that this time I would not be denied from seeing this band. The thing that intrigued me the most was the fact their play list only consists of covers. For most bands this would be a kiss of death, they not only do it well but they transform each song to accommodate their strengths and make it their own.
Seven Easy Pieces is their 19 minute EP is released on the Rough Trade record label, as opposed to Sympathy Records which released Mink Rat or Rabbit and Life, Love, and Leaving. The cover art is the same from the 7" single Ain't It a Shame which pictures a nude Rachel Nagy, the vocalist of the Cobras.
The first track, Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby), is an edgy blues number that displays guitar work reminiscent of The Stooges' Ron Asheton. My Baby Loves the Secret Agent is fun, quirky homage to 60's television spy shows, even referencing I Spy and Get Smart.
Heartbeat is a song written by Ed Cobb (of Soft Cell's Tainted Love fame) which plays out with Wilson Pickett-esque fire. Rachel Nagy's features her smoky voice in Silver and Gold (When I Get Like This) as if she were a young Aretha Franklin. The band truthfully and achingly covers blues man Willie Dixon's Insane Asylum (also sung by Marianne Faithfull) with the male band members contributing to vocals on this track.
The two tracks that epitomizes the Detroit Cobras are the two gospel tunes by Roebuck "Pops" Staples You Don't Knock and 99 And a Half Just Won't Do. This platform is a lively, soulful format that has energy and vitality that made the MC5, Funkadelic, and Iggy Pop so popular. You Don't Knock is a playful song that headlines a few Chuck Berry guitar riffs. 99 And a Half Just Won't Do is probably the most recognizable song on this album which has been covered by Wilson Pickett, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Standells to name a few.
Even though Detroit Cobras exclusively perform cover songs, to call them a cover band would be an injustice. Plenty of popular bands cover tunes and many more cover tunes horribly, but very rarely do bands cover songs well. The Cobras take obscure songs (and probably pop) and recreate them such that it distinguishes and makes them their own, which is what makes their performance that much more impressive.