It’s unlikely that Obits have ever set off on a quest to find a new sound. Had the idea entered their collective consciousness it was surely dismissed as soon as it fizzled in their synapses. The garage door never had a chance of opening.
But who cares about finding a new sound when there’s still plenty of life left in Rock ‘n’ Roll? Not Obits clearly; a band that has read every proclamation of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s demise, popped along to the hearing of the will and accumulated a nice pile of inherited, and unwanted tricks and licks.
Frontman Rick Froberg is no stranger to straight-ahead guitar chaos , having cut his teeth in no less than three influential post-hardcore bands (Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes). Alongside Froberg is ex-Edsel man Sohrab Habibon whose intricate guitar work compliments Froberg’s more punchy approach. Obits might not be as chaotic or abrasive as this pair’s previous bands, but their past ventures can certainly be felt as shuddering influence throughout the entirety of Moody, Standard And Poor.
Anyone who caught Obits’ first album I Blame You will already be familiar with the band’s direct garage sound and they’ll find no real surprises lurking here. This is not so much an evolution, as a secondary phase of laying foundations.
You Gotta Lose opens up with breakneck pace and instantly calls to mind The Fall. The simplistic riffing is driven along by an impassioned rhythm section which keeps things equally basic. No frills it might be, but as soon as Froberg’s familiar yelp enters the fray, the entropy of the song increases significantly seeming to fray around the edges with every screeched intonation.
It’s a template that the band sticks to doggedly throughout. The songs offer a skeletal framework for Froberg’s unhinged vocals to swing from. Considering that his vocals have apparently been tempered by a throat condition, there’s little difference in his attack, as he constantly pushes his vocal chords to the limit. The raucous explosions of Killer or the Stooges-like balls-out rocker No Fly List find him in truly raw and exhilarating form.
When he calms things down, there’s an almost sedate nature to the band’s approach. Shift Operator might be heavy with fuzz-laden bass, but the laid back vocals allow the band to explore more melodic avenues – which gives the album some sense of alternating textures.
If it’s not Froberg’s vocals pushing at the edges of these taut structures then it’s the guitars of Habibon. When he’s given free reign, these sparse arrangements veer across a range of influences. There is a heavy Tom Verlaine/Television tint to the band’s more sedate moments for example. There are also a handful of moments when the band stumble into slowburn psychedelic territory (the heaving closure of I Blame Myself, for example) which finds them on a similar footing The Monks or The Wipers.
When the band brings all these influences together they’re capable of great things. This is most evident on the clear standout, New August which kicks off with a Duane Eddy slap-back guitar lick and develops into a new-wave punk wigout. It’s a dense and foreboding track that takes as much from Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine as it does from The Wipers‘ Youth Of America.
There are times when the songs feel laboured or just to in thrall to the past. The oddly named Spot The Pikey is the main culprit, being little more than a throwaway bit of fun and lacking in invention. For the most part however, this is a focussed and enjoyable stomp.