Record Review: Obits’ Moody, Standard and Poor

Obits: Moody, Standard and PoorObits: Moody, Standard and Poor (Sub Pop, 3/29/11)

Obits: “Shift Operator”

[audio:|titles=Obits: “Shift Operator”]

Few bands have had their first live shows bootlegged by fans. But when Obits‘ January 12, 2008 gig at the Cake Shop in New York City leaked on the Internet, few were surprised. Followers of Rick Froberg‘s previous bands, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, had been anxiously awaiting his new partnership with Sohrab Habibion, of Washington, DC-based Edsel, since the band began writing and rehearsing together in 2006.

After a fan leaked the lo-fi recordings, things moved quickly for the Brooklyn-based indie rockers. Obits posted two of the songs to its MySpace page, was subsequently signed to Sub Pop in late 2008, and released its first record, I Blame You, in March of 2009.

Its follow-up album, Moody, Standard and Poor, finds Obits further honing its gutsy blend of melodic garage punk without sacrificing the energy that defined its first release.

Obits is built around two equally electrifying elements: the aggressive, frenzied guitar work of Froberg and Habibion, and the supremely reliable rhythms of bassist Greg Simpson and drummer Scott Gursky (Shortstack). Moody, Standard and Poor rumbles from track to track, with a flood of bluesy garage punk that dabbles in surf and rockabilly.

“Shift Operator,” one of two songs on the record sung by Habibion, is a fuzzed-out jam with a melodic chorus, plenty of reverb, and a steady, marching rhythm. Though Obits never quite reaches the raucous hollering of Hot Snakes, there’s plenty of growling, spitting, and snarling to accompany its more melodic approach to vocals. As Habibion sings, “Are you, are you reborn,” one gets the sense that the longtime indie-rock veterans are venturing into slightly new territory, with a focus on more adventurous songwriting.

On “New August,” the menagerie of bend, crunch, and twang from Froberg and Habibion’s dueling guitars is guided by a chugging bass line from Simpson. By the end, it turns into a rockabilly free-for-all, complete with a solo that’s just as fiery as any Hot Snakes riff.

Instrumental jam “I Blame Myself,” the album’s closing track, builds to a surf swell before moving into a driving, blues-punk finale. Leaving the listener wanting more, it’s the sort of song that suggests that, two albums in, there’s plenty of life left in Obits.

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