13 Apr 2009

Obits - I Blame You

I have eagerly awaited this album for some time. Obits is the latest band of a dude I massively respect - Rick Froberg. The list of bands that Froberg can put his name to is impressive: Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes. I was never really a fan of RFTC - I think you perhaps needed to be around when they were on the ascendant in order to be a fan. They had some great songs, but Speedo's (aka John Reis's) vocals really grated on me.

Drive Like Jehu were an impressive, if at times sprawling math rock/grungy band. Songs such as Human Interest and Do You Compute being examples I would recommend.

Hot Snakes. HOT SNAKES MAN!! Possibly one of my most favourite bands ever. This also had Reis from RTFM in it, but the sound was reminiscent of the 70's dirty garage rock sound (kinda Stooges-ish). Despite Froberg's vocals being limited in scope (he tends to sing a minor third up from the root most of the time) the interweaving of interesting guitar parts, along with a fast punkish pace makes it seem as if the band was created for me personally.

After Hot Snakes, the first band to come out of the split was John Reis's The Nightmarchers. I bought their debut album and found it to be almost embarrassing in parts - there's some quite cheesy lyrics and very standard structures to the songs, and I said before, I always preferred Froberg's vocals to Reis's. Thumbs down.

I heard about Obits, and also found out that Froberg would be on vocals ("Yes! I'm gonna get a new band I can love as much as Hot Snakes!"). Obviously, a fair few other people were excited, as soon Subpop snapped em up for a 7" release, which I duly ordered, although I preferred the B-Side Put It In Writing. "Very straightforward rock n roll from the 'bergmeister, but... I think I like it."

I Blame You arrived and I gave it 2 full listens in a row, and then came back a little later for a third listen. I had read on the Subpop website:

“We’re not into innovation as a band,” says Froberg, who’s already done his fair share of innovating with Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. “I think innovation is an overestimated quality. Anything that’s going to be original is going to happen without your control. Things that make your band sound like you are things you wouldn’t be able to change anyway. We just go ahead and play the stuff we like, and we don’t worry about originality per se, because that should take care of itself.”

Hmm - I've never considered lack of innovation a particularly great thing for a band to boast about. I Blame You certainly does not stray far beyond rather thin-sounding bluesy rock, with a punkish singer. I really want to like this album but I having trouble. I'm suspicious of falling in love with an album too quickly because the love fades, and the things you liked on the first listen can become cliched or contrived on subsequent listens. Some of my all time favourite albums I've disliked on the early listens and learnt to love.

I hope I Blame You will turn into one of these, but I'm certainly not feeling it at the moment. Maybe I may update when the love happens.... If.

1 comment:

Sohrab/Obits said...

Hey Silince,

I just came across your post from nearly a month ago and wanted to clarify something.

Many folks, including you, seem to have latched onto Rick's quote about innovation and interpreted it in rather severe ways.

I understand the appeal of looking for something more barbed to react to, but I don't believe that was ever Rick's intent.

Our point is that in 2009 there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The voice of a rock'n'roll band should come naturally, without some absurd pretense of being the "new shoegaze" or the "new lo-fi" or whatever hyphenated shortcut is being used to describe some variation on essentially a very familiar idiom.

It's not that we revel in being anachronistic, it's that we see ourselves as part of the same primitive blueprint that has been the backbone of everything from Eddie Cochran to The Standells to Neu! to Wire to Minutemen and so on.

What hopefully makes us different is what we collectively bring to our interpretation and execution of the rock'n'roll formula.

And, as Rick pointed out, that's not something we have much control over. It kind of is what it is.

Undoubtedly this won't make our record sound any better to you, but perhaps it'll keep it out of the recycling bin for at least one more spin.

We'll be in the UK this September, so please come to a show if you can. I'll buy you a beer and you can tell me if we still seem like a bunch of old toads in a tired blues band.