Music

Obits: Beds and Bugs

Photo: Alexis Fleisig

More bare bones, straight-ahead garage rock from the Brooklyn band.


Obits

Beds and Bugs

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2013-09-10
UK Release Date: 2013-09-09
Amazon
iTunes

A band like Obits lives and dies on its bad attitude. The Brooklyn four-piece make properly old-school garage rock, with an absolute minimum of flourishes. Sure, they throw in the occasional dash of surf-rock pitch-bending, the odd piece of Cramps-esque swampy weirdness for variety, but on the whole a couple of minutes with the band gives a good sense of their range and approach, and their sound will be immediately familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity with rock history. That isn't to say that the band are second-rate imitators. Aficionados of this style will find a lot to like in the interplay between the band's guitarists and the straightforward solidity of their rhythm section. Just don't expect any major surprises.

It's a good thing then for Obits that in Rick Froberg they have a frontman with just about enough of a classic rock 'n' roll sneer to get the band over. Froberg certainly has the CV for the job – he's a veteran of a whole series of garage rock bands, most recently Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu. Obits' bare-bones classic sound gives Froberg more room to maneuver than the faster, more aggressive approach of his earlier bands, and he makes the most of it. He might be well into his sixth decade now, but Froberg has the energy of a teenager rocking out in his parents' basement and a voice that somehow finds a place between the knowing leer of AC/DC's Brian Johnson and Karen O's expressive yelp.

Despite his impressive screech, in the grand tradition of garage bands everywhere Froberg isn't the clearest singer. A more significant issue is that he's not the most interesting lyricist. Like the band's music, he favors a functional, straightforward approach to his songwriting, all short punchy lines and repetition for effect. It gets the message across, and occasionally he hits upon an interesting idea, but the delivery isn't subtle.

On their new album, Obits stick pretty close to the formula they established on their previous two albums. There is perhaps a little more sophistication on Beds and Bugs than previously: a few slower, weirder songs, a few more tempo changes, a swampy instrumental in “Besetchet”, a hint of organ on “Machines”. The variety is a welcome development, though the band definitely haven't abandoned their main interest in straight-out, stripped-back rock.

Still, despite the impressive energy and interplay between the band members, there's a sense underlying Beds and Bugs, as there has been with Obits' previous releases, that everything's a little too tidy, too polite. The 60s and 70s garage rockers that are Obits' most obvious inspiration – the Stooges, MC5 and the rest – had a ragged, rebellious, independent streak that felt like a reaction against prevailing musical styles. By paying so much attention to fidelity to that sound, Obits sound reactionary, not revolutionary. Among the endless waves of post-punk and garage revivalists drawing inspiration from those bands, the most successful have been those that have taken the style in new, weird directions. Obits are good at what they do, especially with the volume pumped up loud, but on the whole I think I'd rather just give Kick Out the Jams one more spin.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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