Obits frontman Rick Froberg has gone on the record as saying “we’re not into innovation as a band.” His reasoning is perfectly apt, namely that anything musically innovative happens likely without forethought or planning. But those who recognize Froberg as frontman to Drive Like Jehu and The Hot Snakes, two of the greatest bands to have emerged from San Diego, know that Froberg’s involvement in any project—from his campy artwork to his eternally youthful vocal screech—pretty much guarantees that it’s going to rock. So maybe it goes without saying, but Obits deliver on the promise of a supercharged, endlessly fun garage rock rock party.
Froberg isn’t the only indie rock veteran in Obits; guitarist Sahrab Habibion played in Washington, D.C.’s Edsel. With the rhythm section of Greg Simpson and Scott Gursky rounding out the New York four-piece, Obits play a crisply produced and tautly wound set of punk rock tunes with just the right touch of surf reverb tones. Stylistically, it’s not particularly innovative, but that doesn’t really seem to matter when the songs are this good.
On I Blame You, Obits tread a good amount of ground without straying too far from their Cramps-meets-Mission of Burma aesthetic. Leadoff track “Widow of My Dreams” kicks off the album right, with a instantly classic riff and an infectious chorus (something that almost all these songs share). “Pine On” is a bit more urgent and aggressive, with Froberg shouting the song’s title as if his life depended on it, just before another awesome riff emerges. “Two Headed Coin” rides a slinky bass riff, while “Run” delivers a prettier melody, temporarily keeping the group’s intense fury in check. The space between riffs on “SUD” provides a striking contrast against the manic shaker percussion, and blues standard “Milk Cow Blues” undergoes the Obits house-burning, string shredding treatment.
Something in the guitar tone and the reverb level on I Blame You makes the record oddly nostalgic in a way that’s hard to place. It doesn’t sound specifically like any one album, but a mixture of old favorites that culminate in one ass-kicking blend. So, maybe it isn’t Obits’ goal to innovate, but they don’t need to. Their brand of Orange-bursting punk works just great on its own, without the pretense.
MP3: “Pine On”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.