Recast from a previous incarnation as Death of Samantha, a seminal, strangely compelling Cleveland rock band that put out four records during the last half of the 80s, Cobra Verde arrive as veterans of their town's newly reinvigorated scene. Named after a Werner Herzog film and led by precocious John Petkovic, an overwrought frontman with a penchant for exploiting rock-star conventions to humorous effect, Cobra Verde traffic in terse, gritty hard rock, leaving behind both their old sound (psychedelia, Pere Ubu-ish experimentalism, and glam) and their old drummer, Steve-O (who was better suited to comedy than timekeeping). On their scorching debut, Viva la Muerte (Scat), the tough guitars of Petkovic and Doug Gillard, a melodist with Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets coursing through his veins, combine to produce both fearsome riff rock and sophisticated meshes. Drummer Dave Swanson--who played bass in DOS--and bassist Don Depew construct a sturdy bed for the guitars to sprawl and crawl across, while Petkovic delivers lyrics that are simultaneously caustic and obtuse: whether on the weepy lament "Montenegro"--Petkovic is proud of his Serb background--or an acid-and-vinegar love song like "Debt" ("She's suicide and I'm cyanide"), he rips through them with energy and conviction. Their Chicago debut takes place on Scat Records' "Insects of Rock" tour, which also features Guided by Voices, Prisonshake, and A Bullet for Fidel. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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