Obits – I Blame You

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)

 

www.subpop.com

 

Rick Froberg’s post-Hot Snakes outfit has been a long time
in gestation, surfacing last year in shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and immediately setting off mp3-trading,
word-of-mouth anticipation. The full-length, coming about 12 months after that,
delivers on the promise of early live bootlegs, with killer cuts like “Widow of
My Dreams,” and “Two Headed Coins,” cleaned up but still smouldery, a haze of
hallucinatory smoke hanging over their blues-rock grooves.   Hot Snakes fans have been vocal about the
fact that Obits is not the old band,
and they’re absolutely right. Froberg’s spat, sneered vocals are familiar – as
in Hot Snakes, he tosses lyrics over the side of a moving musical vehicle, sung
lines dopplering off into the distance as the train moves relentlessly forward.
Still, there’s a stretched, zoned-out quality to Obits best cuts that feels
less like flame-throwing garage rock, more like smouldery, long-distance blues.

 

Consider “Widow of My Dreams,” the first cut and right now,
at this moment, my very favorite song. It’s built on a rackety, headlong drum
beat – that’s Scott Gurksy, also of Shortstack. Froberg and Sohrab Habibion (ex of Edsel ) trade guitar lines, one
wringing a mesmeric pattern out of a repeated march up the guitar neck, four
notes up and then repeat.  The
other kicks in tremolo’d exclamation points, scorching, wavering, disappearing
like mirages, sometimes pick rattling the strings in a manic sort of vibrato. Bassist
Greg Simpson lays in the bass, subtle, pounding, just as it needs to be. And
yet, despite the fire, there’s a core of coolness to the track…despite the
rapid-fire, railroad clacking rhythms a sense of stillness.  Maybe the best point of comparison is Golden
Earring’s “Radar Love,” a relentlessly propulsive proto-garage song that has at
its center a well of hallucinatory stillness.

 

A half dozen songs follow this surreal nighttime groove, the
heat of guitars and snarling vocals enveloped in driving, drifting, cool-toned
rhythms. “Two Headed Coin” adds a bubbling bass line, a crescendo’ing descent
of guitar notes, a sixteenth note barrage of snare to its relentless motion. “Light
Sweet Crude” makes space for a tom-rattling drum solo. And “Milk Cow Blues,”
with its pick-clawed stutter, its sudden guitar flares, sounds like the blues
song it is filtered through a sharp metal sieve. Every one of these songs is
fantastically tense, intense and unembellished, but also somehow meditative.

 

Most of the album is excellent, lyrics dripping with rage
about getting older, instrumental fire banked a little, but still hot as hell
if you get too close. A couple of songs seems out of place, especially the
1990s alt-rock anthem “Run,” which seems to be trying to channel Echo and the
Bunnymen, and the jangly, late-1960s Stones-ery of “Back and Forth.” This
latter song is cut from the same template as 100 garage rock songs, a hands-up,
guitar flaming celebration of decadence that might sound just fine if we hadn’t
heard the previous 11 tracks, with their eye of a hurricane calm amid
clattering, spattering racket. This last one is the one that reminds you most
of Hot Snakes – and makes you realize that you don’t miss the old days as much
as you thought you did.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Widow of My Dreams” “Two Headed Coin” “Light Sweet Crude.”
JENNIFER KELLY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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