Band â€â€œ Obits
Album â€â€œ I Blame You
Label â€â€œ Sub Pop Records
Release date â€â€œ April
Sounds like â€â€œ Hot Snakes â€â€œ aggression + 60â€™s rock x surf = I Blame You
Having Rick Froberg back behind the microphone, his rasping voice being back up by a volley of strangled guitar rattles is a welcomed return. The man who brought us Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes has finally decided to put his latest opus to tape in the form of ‘I Blame Youâ€™, an album which sees a departure from the jagged-math precision of Jehu and the raw, ‘fuck youâ€™ punk rock of Hot Snakes. Obits exist as a stripped down, more refined project, focussed towards straight forward, intricate song writing through jangling, discordant guitars, drenched in a healthy dose of the past.
Obits have a strange sound. In some cases it appears certain verses have been exhumed from some tomb, having remained lost for the last 40 years and are only just being heard for the first time. Itâ€™s this gritty, determined squeal that just really doesnâ€™t fit into our world. Whereas on the other hand, a huge percentage of the rhythm section feels as though itâ€™s being recorded in the room next door. The clarity in places is quite astounding, adding balance to the early, stripped down guitar clatter.
It should be noted that Frobergâ€™s vocal technique on almost all of ‘I Blame Youâ€™ is surprisingly clear in places; weathered by experience and control. It still has that brackish edge to it, but due to Obits not rattling away with the unstoppable trainwreck force that Hot Snakes had, Froberg is able to keep up with the music without his words descending into a muffled shout of unintelligible garble.
Going back to the guitars, which may sound pretty ordinary from the confines of normal stereo speakers; but listening to opening track ‘ Widow Of My Dreamsâ€™ through headphones and you can hear the magnificent see-saw interplay between both guitars, follows a more scratchy, discordant fuzz, whilst the other favours a more jangling, tuneful tone, complimenting the opening harshness effectively. Itâ€™s hard to describe; but this is one of those songs that makes you want to pick up a guitar and start to play; itâ€™s got that choppy, yet delicate rhythm that any budding six-stringer would love to perfect.
The next track, ‘Pine Onâ€™ was reviewed by Mad Mac back in March, where it fell under rather unfavourable scrutiny. It was described as ‘an annoying rowâ€™ and ‘reminiscent of the loud pounding rock music of the 60s and 70sâ€Â¦.â€™ which is technically true, ‘Pine Onâ€™ is an mostly certainly bothersome racket and the closest Obits have come to writing a standard punk rock track and is perhaps one of the most accessible and instant 3 minutes of brilliant, aggravated friction on this album.
The twanging guitar intro to ‘Fake Kinkadeâ€™ is something I could have on repeat for days. In fact, Iâ€™ve pressed the skip back button so much, itâ€™s in danger of breaking. A dangerous, guttural sound that leads into a 70â€™s garage rock shuffle of boastful vigour.
Froberg steps away from the microphone on ‘Runâ€™ allowing second guitarist Sohrab Habibion to take lead. This adds a different dynamic to Obitsâ€™ sound, giving them a more soulful and melodic tone, as Habibionâ€™s voice, whilst seems both snotty and slightly indignant, has depth and a rich warmth that Frobergâ€™s lacks. Thereâ€™s still that gnash and scrape of their punk edge, but the vocal swap adds a harmonious touch that I think the album requires in order to set the balance. Sadly, this is the only track to feature this vocal swap, letâ€™s hope on album 2 Habibion is given more time in front of the mic.
I canâ€™t decide where Iâ€™ve heard the familiar, yet nagging guitar line on ‘Talking To The Dogâ€™ and no doubt it will bug me for the rest of eternity. Itâ€™s hard to depict exactly how it sounds, as it has that trashy, crackle of a Hives track being played at the same time as one of NOFXâ€™s slow songs. The jaunt, and cocky swagger is apparent, especially on the chorus and the late backing vocal shout of delight.Ã‚Â It is also the first of two tracks that show similarities to Hot Snakes, which might not be apparent to begin with, but start to shine through on repeated listens.
The title track, whilst only being 68 seconds long, is a testament to Obits and their ability to make such a sinister minute long shred of sound. Slotting somewhere alongside the Beach Boys and disorganised jazz, they create a track Daniel Craig would run about to, snapping necks with his bare hands and flouting his licence to kill like an outrageous peacock.
What is also apparent in Obitsâ€™ sound is the resonant howl the guitars forcefully and successfully drill into the listenerâ€™s brain. ‘Milk Cow Bluesâ€™ has this echoing wail that brings to mind elements of a ominous horror film soundtrack, playing on the strengths of itâ€™s obvious rock ‘n roll structure and the nature of the guitars braying to the moon like howling werewolves. Even the rhythm section has threatening streak; the fast, militant drumming, the cutting grind of the bass, not to mention the vocals, which are a cold shrill bark in the dead of night.
Closing track ‘Back and Forthâ€™ struts with a distinctive laid-back groove, far-removed from the rest of the albumâ€™s spiky, raucous image. Itâ€™s a nice touch, and brings to mind the intricate summer-rock of ‘Plenty For Allâ€™ from ‘Audit In Progress.â€™ Itâ€™s a track that has huge sing-along appeal and one I can see receiving rapturous attention when played live.
A cynic would argue that Obits offer nothing new to the rock music climate. True, they donâ€™t â€â€œ but what they do offer is some incredibly tight-musicianship, a progression and nods towards ghosts of bands past and a slick blues-sheen of confidence and charm. Those familiar with Frobergâ€™s past who donâ€™t own ‘I Blame Youâ€™ what the hell is your major malfunction? You get out there and you buy this record. I donâ€™t care if it means youâ€™re not eating for a week, you need this in your collection!
By Ross Macdonald