Friday, April 19, 2019

David Mead, Cobra Pumps, 2019

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

I've been a big fan of the music of David Mead since his terrific 1999 solo debut The Luxury of Time, especially after I heard him sing some of the songs with just an acoustic guitar on a World Café broadcast.

I've seen Mead perform with a small band and also solo in clubs in Pittsburgh and reviewed albums like the great Mine and Yours from 2001 and the equally fantastic Indiana (2004) for a local monthly paper. And who can forget the gorgeous collection of songs that were the Wherever You Are EP from 2005?

Between 2009 and 2016 Mead played with the rocking power trio of Elle Macho. The band included Mead on vocals and guitars, Butterfly Boucher on vocals, bass, and Moog, and Lindsay Jamieson on vocals, drums, and percussion. Elle Macho released three EPs including Vovo, one of my favorites of 2016.

You can imagine how excited I was to learn that Mead had released the excellent Cobra Pumps, his first solo album since 2011's very fine Dudes, which included the wonderful and sad Christmas song "The Smile Of Rachel Ray." Cobra Pumps is, as expected, full of top tunes but there's also more than a little funk.

Butterfly Boucher is back and is a featured vocalist on Cobra Pumps. She's joined by a small band consisting of Mead (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Chris McHugh (drums), and Craig Young (bass) that makes a very big noise.

Some of that noise is very funky, a sound I wouldn't normally associate with David Mead except for the nearly faux funk (but played straight) of Dudes's "No One Roxx This Town No More" about why clubs in his town aren't playing rock anymore. But we can take a peek at what brought this on by listening to the Cobra Pumps Inspirationals playlist that Mead put together on Spotify that includes Al Green and Prince as well as long-time influences like Paul Simon (Mead covered his "Only Living Boy In New York" in 2004 for the soundtrack of the Everwood television show).

"Poster Child" on Cobra Pumps has a deep bass groove and a chunky rhythm guitar as well as a wonderful, if too short, lead guitar solo. In addition, Mead sings in his trademark croon on the song's chorus: "Do you feel like a child on a poster lately / Washed up and wearing thin? / Or do you shine like a star in a constellation / On and on and on again?"

"Head on Straight" uses a similar musical template and Mead is in wonderful voice. The sexy vibe of the music is reflected in the lyrics: "She wanna eat me alive / She's greasing the ring on her finger / She said, 'You keep me in mind / I'm on the Internet.'" Speaking of lyrics, the rocking opener "Bedtime Story" is a mouthful as is "Big Balls."

The closer "Hopalong" is absolutely beautiful and recalls earlier Mead songs like The Luxury of Time's breathtaking "Breath You In," Indiana's majestic "Queensboro Bridge," and Mine and Yours's "Only in the Movies."

Cobra Pumps is David Mead's first solo album in five years, and it's a welcome addition to his brilliant body of work. He doesn't tour as he much as he used to, but if you’re ever in Nashville make sure you catch one of his gigs there.

Cobra Pumps is out now on (for CD and vinyl) and your favorite digital vendors (for downloads).

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