Cobra Starship would likely be the first to agree if you were to call them a joke band. The goofball lyrics, the kitsch-en sink approach to the music, and the day-glo visual images they portray are the work of a band that doesn't take itself seriously at all. The only point of contention would be whether the joke is funny and worth telling repeatedly, or if it's an annoying one that may have been funny once but is now wearing itself thin. If you are in the latter camp, then Hot Mess will hold no appeal for you at all. The silly dance pop, lightweight emo pop, and generally irreverent approach to music will make you want to break the disc in half. On the other hand, if that list sounds good to you, then Hot Mess is just what you'll want to be spinning on hot summer nights, late-night dance parties, and girl/boy's nights out. That their sound includes healthy doses of cheerleader chants, glam rock shouts, corny synth lines (played on the most cheesy of all synths, the keytar), mindless dance beats, arena rock guitars, totally fake hip-hop poses, '80s pop rip-offs, and vocodered vocals makes it a near-perfect pop sound for the age of short attention spans, gossip girls, and guyliner, and sounds like exactly what the title promises. The songs that sound like pre-ordained radio hits like "Good Girls Go Bad" (which features the amazingly post-modern guest list of Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester on vocals, Lil Wayne producer Kevin Rudolf behind the board, and a co-write from pro songwriter/Am Idol judge Kara DioGaurdi), "Wet Hot American Summer" and "Move Like You Gonna Die" have all the spangles, club sweat, and ridiculous energy you'd expect, but this time out you can also hear a little bit of real emotion (on the heartbroken R&B jam "The World Will Never," or the seemingly heartfelt and melancholy "Fold Your Hands Child"), some earnestly sweet melodies (the chorus of "Living in the Sky with Diamonds"), and a feeling that even though the band is a joke, it doesn't have to be a total throw away one-liner all the time. These slight diversions also keep the record from feeling like a non-stop rush of sugar-smacked silliness, which is something that made the last record less than a success. Hot Mess is a complete success and shows that the band could possibly grow past the comedy and become something else entirely. Not that they need to, though, it's be perfectly fine if Cobra Starship stayed a joke and kept making records as fun and frothy as Hot Mess.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
feat: Leighton Meester