Les Savy Fav: The Cat and the Cobra

The Cat and the Cobra
Genre: Post-Punk Revival
Label: Frenchkiss
Producer: Nicolas Vernhes
Release Year: 1999
Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

When I reviewed Les Savy Fav’s 2010 album Root for Ruin, I had no idea it would not only be the last album of theirs I’d review, but the last one they’d put out. Because in 1999, when The Cat and the Cobra came out, Les Savy Fav felt like the new direction of rock music. At least the kind I liked. Accessible enough to be enjoyable, but off-kilter enough to be exciting and surprising. Call it art rock. Call it punk. But call it weird and wonderful in its DIY showy nonsensical glory.

I saw these dudes on the tour for their 2001 album, Go Forth, and it was quite an experience. Not only was it a mere two weeks after 9/11 at Bowery Ballroom, it felt like a weird, shared experience that was 100% manic energy. Even after opening bands The Apes and !!! laid it all out there. It always helps when your out-of-shape, bald, beardy lead singer comes out all sweaty in tighty whities while the rest of the band pretends everything is normal. I feel like he also donned a feather boa and perhaps some sort of party crown. It’s been a minute, but I know it was part rock show, part performance art. Which always gives this band — and this album — a reason to look at it askance. This was the age where it was hard to separate the serious from the almost mockish nature of artiness. Because earnestness is something that took a hit after the bleeding-heart nature of the grunge and emo movement. And in moved bands like Les Savy Fav, whose Brooklyn nature was to both make fun of that shit, while simultaneously trying to make art out of it. Which is, in essence the quintessential hipster shit that embodied that area’s Gen-X, I-don’t-give-a-shit-but-I-really-do-give-a-shit attitude hangover.

There is just something urgent about this album. Something in its sharpness and messiness that is hard to recreate. The experimental and all-over-the-place nature of the music that feels fueled by some sort of synthetic high, but also an organic energy that is rarely captured on albums these days. Like every track is kind of verging on out of control. And inspires dancing in the same vein. Not moshing, not punching. Dancing. Like an idiot. Like a fool. It just doesn’t matter. And that’s kind of what this album is. And what this type of turn-of-the-new-century music inspired. Individuality and lack of care about what it was. How it was classified. Radio unfriendly and almost proud of it. But, even as this almost nonsensical, debaucherous album wraps up, we’re left with some doomsaying and ominous predictions about the looming 2000s in the closing track “Titan.” Who knew that Tim Harrington would be so clairvoyant? Yet so much a false start on the twee, drowned-in-sound nonsense that took over Brooklyn rock not so far in the future. Damn you, Osama.