PURSES: Obsess Much

This is entertaining indie rock from what amounts to a supergroup of young Athens bands.
Obsess Much
Laser Brains

While Athens, Georgia might not make the musical headlines it once did in the heyday of R.E.M. or the B-52s, the city never stopped generating great music. Pick a year and you’ll probably have no trouble finding great albums and bands birthed (or at least making a home) in Athens. This year will surely be no different, and PURSES will deserve some of the credit.

PURSES is made up of Drew Beskin (District Attorneys, Party Dolls), Phillip Brantley (Modern Skirts), Mckendrick Bearden (Grand Vapids), Hunter Morris (Blue Blood, Gift Horse), Jeremy Wheatley (Crooked Fingers, Ruby the Rabbitfoot) and Frank Keith IV (Tedo Stone, The District Attorneys, Party Dolls, Ruby the Rabbitfoot), among others. If that sounds like a lot of styles to bring together under one name, PURSES proves to be a remarkably cohesive unit. There are plenty of reference points — ’60s jangle reminiscent of The Byrds, good old-fashioned noise, classic rock, southern rock, acoustic folk, West Coast harmonies, and more — but it all comes together in this batch of straightforward southern indie rock.

Obsess Much kicks off in rousing fashion with “Hitchhiker” and an infectious drum beat before settling into an indie-pop wall of guitars instantly recognizable to fans of the fondly remembered District Attorneys. “Stella McCartney” breezes by at a brisk heartbroken pace, while “Hannah’s Song” adopts a slightly woozy feel. “Clementine” is an exercise in push-and-pull dynamics as ringing guitars cut through the song’s quiet vibes, rising and falling before settling into an insistent and squalling lead guitar line. “Another Lonely Tune” takes a more traditional route, building from a lone keyboard and almost whispered vocals to a crescendo as Beskin repeats the lyrics “a falling star, a bag of bones, another lonely tune”.

Throughout Obsess Much, Beskin’s vocals are often buried in the mix. On the one hand, it would be nice to know exactly what Beskin is singing, but overall, this quality works to the record’s advantage. Phrases and choruses bubble out of the songs with clarity. Some of them are obvious (for example, “I’ve got a one-way ticket to the middle of the night” from “Wheels On the Run”), while others invite you to assign your own meaning.

This characteristic also hearkens back to the classic days of the Athens alternative scene, nowhere moreso than on the vintage R.E.M. feel of one of the album’s true standout tracks, “White Wire Handle”. Here, it sounds like Beskin could slip from his own chorus to pleading “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” without missing a step.

Obsess Much is an impressive calling card and introduction, one that’s remarkably focused in light of all the personalities involved (and considering the often infrequent recording schedule that depended on people being available from their other commitments). By the time “Goodnight Kiddo” closes the album in fitting fashion, it’s hard to think of a recent album that feels like simple and pleasurable time well spent.

RATING 7 / 10