Posts Tagged ‘ Obits ’

Obits – Beds & Bugs

Beds & Bugs cover

Obits – Beds & Bugs

The tricky thing about reviewing Obits’ Beds & Bugs is that it’s difficult to avoid repeating my review of Moody, Standard and Poor. They have a solid, blues-based garage rock sound that blew me away the first time I heard it, but every album since then has felt like a faint echo of their debut, I Blame You. I want to like it: The Obits are the current band of Hot Snakes’ Rick Froberg, and after three consistent albums it seems like they’re in this for the long haul, but it also seems like it’s maybe a little too consistent.

The music is melodic, but with a mild distortion that makes the vocals difficult to focus on. This is a good balance between accessibility and comforting obscurity. More importantly, it puts the focus on the music rather than the lyrics. The band sings about things like making sure your pets will be cared for in your will (“Pet Trust”) or a detailed explanation of a birth gone wrong (“Malpractice”). These topics are presented in such a straightforward way that it’s difficult to tell whether they are intended to be an absurdist comment on modern culture, a Dadaist parody of songwriting, or true-life topics that actually resonate with the songwriter. This isn’t a major problem since the music is the important thing here. But while it was easy to enjoy mildly amusing topics like “Two-Headed Coin” in their first album, this is less hook-filled and doesn’t offer too much that’s new.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason that these songs don’t grab me. Some of it is probably familiarity from the last albums. The only real difference I hear between their best songs and the other ones is that I Blame You really seemed driven by the drums. Drummer Alex Fleisig has left the band since this album was released, so I’m not sure if there’s a story there. Either way, the drumming here is good but feels like it’s mainly following the guitar. The music retains its distinctiveness, and it’s always a little interesting, but it’s never vital.

The Obits are a good band, and this album doesn’t change that. Beds & Bugs does suffer from the standard they set in the past, though, and with none of the songs being worth hearing for the lyrics, it’s too easy to make these unflattering comparisons.

Grade: C+

 
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Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor (Music Review)

Moody, Standard and Poor cover

Obits - Moody, Standard and Poor

When the Obits’ first album I Blame You appeared in 2009, it was a breath of fresh air. Two years later, their follow-up Moody, Standard and Poor is much like a second breath of that exact same fresh air. It’s as good as the first one in many ways, but just doesn’t feel nearly as vital.

It’s kind of strange to complain about the album sounding too similar to anything, given how unique the band’s sound is. A bass-heavy, blues-informed garage band, they have a punk energy but the clean sound and slightly abstract lyrics of an indie blues band. Singer Rick Froberg has an intense scream that demands attention, but the taut, frequently-evolving music is what sticks in the listener’s mind. The Obits deserve comparisons to Boston in their accomplishment of creating a distinctive, immediately recognizable sound on their debut.

If anything, Moody, Standard and Poor dials down the musical intensity slightly and explores slightly wider ground lyrically, but this is so subtle that it’s hard to tell if it was intentional. That may be a fertile direction for future Obits albums, but in this one, it just sounds like a collection of second-best songs from the same session as I Blame You. It’s even shorter than that album, at a slim 35 minutes.

The similarities mean that the sound is still great, at least. There isn’t a single minute of filler, and the new songs are welcome. They range from the introspective and (slightly) slow-paced “New August”, which takes time to build a groove, to the angry “No Fly List”, which proves that the band can incorporate punk rock intensity when they want. The mostly instrumental “Spot the Pikey”, with surf riffs leading up to an almost-bored group reciting the song title, has a sense of humor not previously shown.

There are definitely multiple possibilities for evolution in the group’s future. Obviously, it will still sound reminiscent of these past albums, and in some ways it’s unfair to punish them for having developed such an original sound already. But it will be necessary for the Obits to recapture the thrill of discovery and claim the excitement that their style deserves.

Grade: B-