Obits: Moody, Standard and Poor

For those that fear Sub Pop has strayed too far from its sweaty grunge rock roots, the presence of New York’s rough-and-ready garage rock revivalist Obits offer plenty of reassurance to the contrary.


Moody, Standard and Poor

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2011-03-28
UK Release Date: 2011-04-04

For those that have feared that seminal Seattle, Washington, indie label Sub Pop has strayed too far from its sweaty grunge rock roots in favor of gentle folk acts and well-scrubbed indie popsters, the presence of New York’s rough-and-ready garage rock revivalist Obits offer plenty of reassurance to the contrary. Never ones to go easy on the volume knob or shun the joys of distorted electric guitar, Obits turned out an impressive debut in 2009 with I Blame You, a combustible powder keg of an album. Following that triumphant start, Sub Pop has now issued Moody, Standard and Poor (recorded in the group’s home base of Brooklyn), which reveals itself to be another winner overstuffed with sweat-soaked gems that never relent.

As a package, Moody, Standard and Poor is just a notch below the previous album -- 12 songs of tight, able-bodied garage rawk driven by the uninhibited nature of punk yet bereft of its sloppiness. Quite noticeably, Obits overwhelmingly steer clear of slow moments, except for the dazed-and-confused downer-psychedelia of “I Blame Myself” at the end (and even that one builds up momentum before it’s done). Instead, the group strives to generate a measured-yet-moderately-fast headlong rush as it speed-walks through each performance with gusto and conviction. Obits’ self-assurance is well-earned: aside from the gets-old-awfully-quickly juvenile cursing of “No Fly List”, there’s no moment on the LP where the four-piece fumbles about or offers anything less than its full concentrated effort.

What makes Obits’ output so awesome is that the band members -- who already paid their dues in Drive Like Jehru, Pitchfork, Edsel, and Hot Snakes years before joining up for this project -- have a firm grasp on how to make rock that actually rocks. Any beer-fueled run-of-the-mill basement dwellers can turn up some skuzzy amplifiers and bash out a couple of barre chords for cheap thrills. Not content with settling for sheer volume or aggressive attitude as an adequate stand-in for capable execution, there is a skillfulness to Obits’ pounding beats and striking chord crashes. Tighter than and lacking the amateurishness of the ‘60s garage rock groups they invoke the collective spirit of, Obits instead act as the mythic embodiment of the exciting flair and raucous cool that those artists could never actually consistently muster.

For an example of Obit’s prowess, look no further than this offering’s introductory cut, “You Gotta Lose”. The proceedings are immediately inaugurated by an insistent pummeling beat and a pendulum-swinging guitar lick that lesser groups would be content to ride out for an entire song. Obits, however, opts to dramatically switch to a tough, oomph-filled groove that’s interspersed with a recurring power chord fill to emphasize the end of each line. Although much chatter about Moody, Standard and Poor has focused on singer/guitarist Rick Froberg’s shift from hoarse shouting to ragged melodicism, what truly merits attention is the interplay between Froberg and his fellow six-stringer, Sohrab Habibion. The pair’s roles aren’t often split into a clear rhythm/lead guitar divide, instead taking an orchestrated approach that has each musician playing complementary sections that formulate complete riffs in the final mix, as on “Killer”. Underneath, bassist Greg Simpson and drummer Scott Gursky rumble and romp together to form crowd-stirring rhythms that are never rigid or underwhelming. This well-oiled, unstoppable rock ‘n roll machine’s coolest moment might be the minute-and-a-half instrumental “Spot the Pikey”, with its groovy spy movie riffs, tremolo flourishes and climactic drum roll-driven hook.

It’s unclear how much the departure of Gursky after the completion of Moody, Standard and Poor will affect Obits’ formidable chemistry in the long-term. In the meantime, accept no under-talented racket-makers or paint-by-numbers genre loyalists as substitutes: Obits are the sort of band modern-age garage rock (and, indeed, much of the self-satisfied independent rock scene) should be lauding as its standard. Whether you’re at home alphabetizing your record collection or marking time in your car while stuck in a traffic gridlock, throw this album on if you haven’t been rocked enough lately.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.