One of the most unexpected (and brief) returns last year was that of Cobra Starship, the Gabe Saporta-fronted dance/pop/rock group who struck mid-aughts success with songs like “You Make Me Feel…” and “Good Girls Go Bad”. In honor of the their album Hot Mess going gold, Saporta made a brief return to the spotlight to release a couple unheard b-sides along with some other merchandise and goodies. And as soon as the press was over, Saporta returned to his life running a management company for up-and-coming acts.
Before Cobra’s starship took off, Saporta fronted one of the best New Jersey punk/pop-punk groups to never quite break into the mainstream, Midtown. And frankly, I would take a reunion of that group over the more pop-leaning Cobra Starship anyway. 2002’s Living Well is the Best Revenge was as strong (or better) than anything blink-182 or New Found Glory released in those years, and then they took things to the next level with the harder Forget What You Know. While “Give It Up” received some radio play, one of the overlooked gems from that album was the more expansive “Empty Like the Ocean”.
A spiky guitar riff and hard rock drumming that opens the song doesn’t prepare for the prog-esque melody Saporta’s vocals open the track to. Things slow for the biting line “I don’t care where you come from if it’s awful there. All of us are alone” before the drums explode again. The song builds upon this sparse chorus, adding layers of guitars and haunting vocal melody change-ups that make the bridge lines of “Dance until the sweat forms on your face” feel like a threat instead of a call to action.
“Empty Like the Ocean” is just one hint of the exciting directions the group could have gone had they stayed together. Clear Saporta found more fun and success in Cobra, and seems happier being on the business side of things now, but speaking for a legion of fans of Midtown; a couple one-off shows here and there would be a welcome treat.