Unmasking Tobacco | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Unmasking Tobacco

Black Moth Super Rainbow's new Cobra Juicy


Cobra Juicy represents Black Moth Super Rainbow's umpteenth attempt at a fifth album. Having scrapped initial attempts out of fear that he was losing control of the band's sound, the founder of the Pittsburgh-based band, Tom Fec, a.k.a. Tobacco, considered shelving the Black Moth Super Rainbow endeavor altogether in favor of work that would grant him greater autonomy. For a time, he worked alone. This solo exploration yielded 2010's Maniac Meat, which served to reinvigorate his creative energy. More importantly, though, it reinvigorated Tobacco's confidence. 

As a testament to that confidence — or maybe to his lack of faith in the recording industry's willingness to embrace ambition — Tobacco opted to finance the album's release via Kickstarter and release it on his own Rad Cult record label. Among the swag on offer to potential backers was a latex mask, a terrifying recreation of the grinning citrus visage that emblazons the album's cover, with a USB of the album embedded in the tooth. In less capable hands, such elaborate packaging would smack of gimmickry. For a Black Moth Super Rainbow album, though, the concept is yet another layer of texture piled upon what is already a very tactile album. "It's an essential part of the experience," Tobacco says.

With each listen, the mask makes more sense. Every lyric on the album is delivered through a vocoder, every riff doused in fuzz. Every sound is manipulated and coated in artifice. Blending the sunny psychedelia of The Flaming Lips with the cool electronic remove of Air, Cobra Juicy occupies some very strange sonic territory, at once saccharine-sweet and serpent-sinister. In spite of all the artistic subterfuge and the total autonomy under which it was brought to light, Cobra Juicy is ultimately Black Moth Super Rainbow's most outward-looking and accessible effort to date.

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By Mars Johnson