Thursday, March 31, 2011
[pitchfork.com] If there's one thing Obits don't have, it's a hip new sound. When the New York City-based quartet's debut, I Blame You, arrived in 2009, it sounded refreshingly back-to-basics. The band played amped-up roots rock-- twangy Creedence Clearwater Revival riffs delivered at speedy, Wipers-worthy tempos. No samplers and no drum machines, just four scowling dudes and some tube amps. Co-frontmen Rick Froberg and Sohrab Habibion did time playing raw and heavy post-hardcore-- in Hot Snakes and Edsel, respectively-- but Obits jettisoned the atonal bashing in favor of space and subtlety.
Moody, Standard and Poor, the band's second full-length, is in many ways a repeat performance. Guitar duties break down along familiar lines: Rick Froberg hammers out the power chords while Sohrab Habibion plucks the echo-laden leads. Drummer Scott Gursky pounds out four-on-the-floor rhythms with mechanical precision. Obits even hired the same producers, Eli Janney and Geoff Sanoff. Two years on the road has put some wear-and-tear on the quartet's psyche, though. I Blame You tempered stormy feelings with the occasional glimmer of major-key hope-- the ringing open-chord chorus of "Lilies in the Street" or the Phil Spector stomp of "Back and Forth". This time around the quartet is a shade grumpier. Songs are, by turns, bitter, weary, and defeated. "Self medication don't seem to improve my station," sings Froberg on "New August". "I'm so tired, tired of my dreams." Habibion, who sings two songs on the record, is similarly down in the dumps. "You're hanging on to scraps, I'm taking what is mine," he yells on "Standards". "I just see a ghost when I look into your eyes."
Nothing can crush a rock song like good vibes, though. So it doesn't hurt that on Moody, Standard and Poor, life-affirming thoughts are few and far between. Album opener "You Gotta Lose" rides in on a propulsive ping-ponging garage-rock riff. The three-chord refrain that closes "No Fly List" gets Froberg whelping at his sandpapery best. But the second half of the record sags. Two instrumentals-- "Spot the Pikey" and stormy closer "I Blame Myself"-- feel tossed off and inessential next to gnarled rockers like "Killer". And even with Janney and Sanoff behind the boards, the record sounds murky and loose. I Blame You spoofed pro-studio production-- adding a jokey disclaimer that read, "Xtra compressed for maximum listener fatigue." Moody, Standard and Poor could stand some additional punch in the rhythm section, though.
Obits are only on their second record, but a generation has gone by since Froberg and Habibion first plugged into a Marshall stack. Three out of four band members are old enough to have seen Nation of Ulysses play live. While Obits may have ditched the buzz and scrape of their roots, that music's sweaty abandon, or the pursuit thereof, is still deeply embedded in Obits' sound. And that never goes out of fashion.
— Aaron Leitko, March 30, 2011
Posted by Dan Goldin at 2:39 AM