Long live punk
If art really does mirror society, punk rock music of the last 20 years could be seen as a microcosm of this theory. It has traditionally been a reactionary style that follows its own trends alongside, and against, mainstream American culture. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the conservative years of Reagan and Bush I, left-leaning modern punk was at its height, with a big middle finger in the air to those in charge. Soon-to-be-legends Bad Religion and Operation Ivy rocked with passion and aggression about domestic issues like racism, the establishment and censorship.
Then came the Clinton years. The punks were happy, peace-loving ska-punk outfits. Bands like Sublime and Reel Big Fish became the rage at local venues and on the radio.
Fast forward to 2005. The country is involved in the bloodiest war since Vietnam, and stories of our diminishing freedoms and corporate scandal abound in the news. How does the popular punk community respond? With emo music, screamy pop songs about high-school romance, making love on rainy days and Internet-dating Web sites.
Hard-rocking Reno upstarts Cobra Skulls have another answer. Started in January 2004 by singer, songwriter and bassist Devin Peralta, Cobra Skulls are a straightforward, three-piece outfit that’s all about “stickin’ it to the man.”
With a hard-edged, raspy-yet-trained voice, sounding like Tim Armstrong of Rancid, Peralta does stick it to the man. His often satirical lyrics criticize the Bush administration’s policies, like the PATRIOT Act, with blatant, angry lyrics like, “The President said it’s up to me to die for my democracy/And meanwhile he’ll reserve the right to come into my home at night/And say ‘tell me what the fuck have you been reading?'”
Peralta is joined by Charlie Parker on guitar and Chad Cleveland on drums. The trio met in Reno in 2000, when they were students at the University of Nevada, Reno. Peralta, originally of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Cleveland, from Ketchum, Idaho, both come from other bands. Parker, also of Ketchum, is a rookie to the music biz.
So far, they say, Reno has welcomed them to the music scene. “Reno is a great place to start a band,” Peralta says. “There’s lots of venues to play, and all these bands stop off in Reno on their way from the Bay Area to Salt Lake City. We have already developed a good following in our short time here.”
Cobra Skulls cite their influences as local outfits 7 Seconds and Beer Can, but they also say they owe credit to national acts like NOFX and Against Me!
“Growing up, we all listened to bands like 7 Seconds and NOFX, but we aren’t trying to get any particular sound,” Peralta says. “We just play the music we like, and, if others like it too, that’s awesome. We aren’t going to change our style to get more fans.”
For now, Cobra Skulls will be hanging around Reno, playing local venues like The Zephyr, Fritz and The Satellite. In the coming months, they’ll go into the studio to produce a split record with neon-clad Reno rockers Beer Can.
A Cobra Skulls concert, Cleveland says, is a guaranteed blast. “Cobra Skulls are all about getting drunk and having a good time,” he says. “If that sounds good, then come check us out.”