Obey Cobra

Mwg Drwg

From South Wales via Hell, bringing the rough distortion, the electronic disarray and the bottom-kickers

Recently I have been enjoying the American comedy-drama series Loudermilk. It’s about a washed-up music journalist who’s hit middle-age and now cleans floors for a living. Before you ask, yes, it does feel alarmingly relatable. That’s beside the point.

One scene quotes the old adage, “You’ve got your whole life to write your first album… and then six months to write your second.” Loudermilk credits this pearl to Don Henley of Eagles fame. Elsewhere, it’s ascribed to Elvis Costello, Jon Bon Jovi and Lewis Capaldi, to name a few. Beats me who said it first but it definitely wasn’t the passionate Scottish balladeer. Loudermilk’s point is that second albums prove whether any given artist is the real deal or not. He uses the word “sophomore” but even typing that in inverted commas makes me want to reach for the Union Jack face paint, tattoo onto my chest a few key lines from Stuart Maconie’s infamous ‘Yanks Go Home’ edition of Select magazine and charge into the Atlantic Ocean riding a hobby-horse named Jerusalem.

South Wales’ Obey Cobra show they mean business right from the start of their follow-up to 2021’s Oblong. Whereas that debut, in places, had a tentative or meandering vibe, Mwg Drwg is more urgent and focused. Often, it’s as in-your-face as Gordon Ramsay’s finger when he’s just forced down an under-seasoned fisherman’s pie.

The LP blasts off with ‘Blank Tape’ which understands what separates the noise-rock wheat from the clumsier chaff. Namely, as a scaffold to the rough distortion and decorative electronic disarray, the rhythm section really needs to swing. Job done here as you could, in theory, dance to the groove of this opening cut, even if the only folk joining you on the floor were fellow freaks in Scratch Acid merchandise.

Other bottom-kickers include ‘Gnostic Shock’. This one alternates between a frantic punky section and contrasting slower movement built around a down-tuned riff that sounds commendably disgusted with the very idea of being a serviceable riff at all. ‘Blue Hour’, meanwhile, suggests someone has finally decided to add a melodic vocal line to the provocatively slow and seemingly broken-pedalled anti-rock of USA/MEXICO or Orchestra Of Constant Distress. The echoey ‘Kali Yuga’ ups the swirling space-rock factor, over which K Wood practically breaks into a rap. It’s the Beastie Boys hit from Hell.

Largely demonstrated later in proceedings, the quartet also provide the goods when they hold back a touch. Although it still has a massive bassline, the title track adopts a sparse and near-gothy approach. The poppiest moment is saved until last with ‘Blackweir’, a catchy tune set to some spindly lead.

“You’ve got your whole life to write your first album and then six months to write your second. If you manage to make it to your third without disbanding, dying, being shipped to rehab or alienating every record label, you’ve paid the dues and your ego will be so bloated you might as well go mad and release only double- or triple-albums from now on, like what Swans do these days.” (JR Moores, The Quietus)

They’ve passed the examination and now the rock world is Obey Cobra’s oyster. To fill the ensuing double-LP in a satisfactory manner, the advice is to extend numbers like ‘Blue Hour’ to the punishing side-long length of Shit And Shine’s ‘Practicing To Be A Doctor’ and throw in a cod-reggae number or two. Doesn’t matter whether Loudermilk would approve. He’s a grown man who still wears Pissed Jeans t-shirts. Imagine that.

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