If there were a computer programme created to generate the quintessential Sub Pop band it’s a fair bet that it would come up with something like Obits. The Brooklyn based quartet’s third album Beds & Bugs is a rock record that could only really be released on Sub Pop.
Obits are made up of four men who have quite a history within the realms of US independent rock. Guitarist and vocalist Rick Froberg was previously a member of cult acts Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes while guitarist Sohrab Habibion was part of Washington DC post hardcore band Edsel. In short, their pedigree is vast. Beds & Bugs is another well put together ragged rock album that carries on the thrilling sound of 2009’s I Blame You and 2011’s Moody, Standard And Poor.
If anything, the band sound even more fevered here. Opener Taste The Diff is a rollicking piece of garage rock ushered in by a knowingly hearty laugh by Froberg. It’s a track indicative of the band’s spirit and sense of fun. There is nothing of the tortured rock star here; Obits appear to be having the time of their lives.
The music adheres to the time honoured indie rock principals of propulsive aggression and reckless abandon. Fellow Sub Pop legends Mudhoney are an obvious comparison, particularly on the fittingly named dirty, grimy rocker It’s Sick. There are some diverting moments on the album though that suggests a slightly more experimental side to the band.
Besetchet is a cover of a song performed by Orchestra Ethiopia released as part of the Ethiopiques series of recordings. In the hands of Obits, it becomes a brilliantly meandering, ominous surfy garage rumble. Elsewhere, Machines takes things in an interesting direction with its claustrophobic atmosphere and meandering eastern guitar lines. While these tracks are welcome diversions, they are very much anomalous amongst the fevered rockers that dominate. That’s OK though; Obits are very good at what they do.
Froberg’s frenetic, jittery yelps and squeals suggest that he is wired in to Obit’s energised racket. The band are a good match for his hyperactive persona. When everything comes together, it works wonderfully as on the garage groove of Malpractice. When the pace drops slightly, as on the forgettable Receptor, the formula is less successful. The album’s relative drop in quality towards the second half is a minor quibble though. Obits have long since made their point.