Cobra Verde go for a drama-school extravagance that singer John Petkovic’s voice is too deep-pitched and bare to achieve. But the staginess of his vocals is still effective. There’s some Ray Davies in him, an air of “I’m sounding oh-so-charming while lacing my words with hatred,” except Petkovic isn’t lacing anything with hatred, as far as I can tell. The lyrics on Easy Listening are more literary than conversational and more epigrammatic than narrative: “My perfect crime, you’ll do the time, I’ll get away.” “You were the ghost who never traveled far.” “When you are down I will look up to you.” He combines amusement with sorrow, though he’s too enigmatic to tell us what he’s amused or sad about. Relationships, I guess.
The words echo other songs: “By the time I got to Phoenix, I was halfway to hell,” except whenever I hear him start this, I complete it as “By the time I got to Phoenix, I was half-a-million strong.” He croons “Don’t worry, baby” to a lover, like he’s the Beach Boys, and even though he’s given her nothing but things to worry about (“When you see me/I will disappear/When you curse me/I will reappear”), when the line “Don’t worry baby” reappears at the end, it has a gentling effect.
The melodies are good, as is the guitar playing. The riffs are sweet but crunchy. They don’t get soggy in the morning when you pour milk on them. . . . Oh, I’ve never known how to express what I like in a riff or a melody, but I’ll take a shot: I like melodies that have a good sense of humor, plenty to say, and strong opinions, but that are tolerant and willing to listen to others, and have great curiosity. They should be passionate and ready to commit, but have an independent streak. When they see me, I won’t disappear. I promise.