The past year has been a lot of things, but no one can deny that its been a crucible for Daniel Romano’s most prolific work. The band has amassed a Gizzard’s worth of albums over the past couple of years, embracing an effortlessly classic sound that consumes roots, country, and rock with stadium-sized ambitions and a last-call barroom heart. While the juggernaut of Romano’s songwriting simply cannot be stopped, there seem to be albums that are anchor points along the way. The last true heavy of The Outfit’s output was How Ill Thy World Is Ordered, a blood-streaked blossom that found its way out about a year ago. Cobra Poems seems to be the proper follow-up to that album, both in spirit and scope. While the road through 2021 was less breathless than the last for Romano, there were still two albums and a second live document from The Outfit on display since the New Year. Cobra Poems marks a return to the drama and drive of the band at its best.
The record feels tumultuous at times, finding a kinship with prime-era Fleetwood Mac in one moment, Todd Rundgren, ELO, and The Raspberries the next. There’s a bright light blind to the album, a feeling of sweat-stained euphoria on stage that comes charging through in the songs. Cobra Poems finds itself pushing harder than he has in quite a bit, diverting less into stylistic eddies and letting an embrace of excess (in a great way) define its sound. Romano and the band present a united force in places, kicking out 10-foot power pop like The Raconteurs bled dry of the boys club countenance. Speaking of which, it’s nice to see Romano share the spotlight on this record a bit. While Julianna Riolino has long been a standout of the past records, she’s not as often taken the wheel. Here she helms a couple of songs, adding to the feeling that this is more of The Outfit’s record than Dan’s, a cohesive swoon of stacked harmonies, somersault drums, and hip-slung guitar. Honestly if you’ve had The Outfit on your radar, this one isn’t coming as a surprise, but it provides a great inroad for the uninitiated and another essential in Romano’s stockpile of classics.
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