Release Date: Sep 10, 2013
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Garage Punk, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Obits are a killer, surf-y garage rock entity renowned for tightly coiled blasts of observational incredulity. However, for their third full-length for Sub Pop, the Brooklyn, NY band have loosened up a great deal. Opting to record in engineer Nikhil Ranade's DC apartment, which is situated above a bar, the casual creative atmosphere inspired "new for them" ideas (i.e., acoustic guitar, fleshing practice recordings out with overdubs, harmonica, etc.) and that informal risk bleeds through in refreshing ways.
Much has been made of the Obits' celebrated pedigree, as the band exists in a long line of projects from the minds that gave us post-punk powerhouses like Edsel, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and others. While these associations probably serve as both a blessing and curse to the band in terms of trying to express themselves outside the weight of their own past, with third album Bed & Bugs, Obits seem to be entirely comfortable taking their muse in whatever direction suits them, seemingly without regard to stylistic boundaries or critical reception. That's not to say Obits have turned in a shoddy, self-indulgent album.
From the ashes of Hot Snakes came Obits, a knee-jerking rock-and-roll band fresh from a garage you’d imagine somewhere in Louisiana. The guys’ third Sub Pop release, the vibrant Bed & Bugs, was bred in a swamp, then laid to sun-dry on a surf-punk beach just for good measure. Obits have seriously sharpened their craft since their last release, 2011’s Moody, Standard and Poor.
Like Deerhunter and Thee Oh Sees, Obits walk a fine line between ramshackle and sophistication, cerebral and visceral. They’re essentially a garage rock band whose members can play their instruments. They also have an encyclopedic knowledge of music and a fine-tuned ear for sound—which is what makes them so good. And, like those bands, Obits have flipped the script (or, at least, tinkered with it) over the course of their last couple of records.
When you’ve headed up such musical luminaries as Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, you’re allowed to make whatever album you want. That’s exactly what Obits have done on this third full-length. Mainman Rick Froberg might be midway through his fifth decade, but he and his cohorts can still make one hell of a racket. Whether the abrasive grunge of ‘Taste The Diff’ or the quasi-surf rock of ‘Spun Out’, the White Stripes-esque blues’n’roll of ‘Malpractice’ or the gentle hippy-folk of ‘Machines’, this is a crazed, unpredictable crash course in making a record and not giving a shit.
If there were a computer programme created to generate the quintessential Sub Pop band it’s a fair bet that it would come up with something like Obits. The Brooklyn based quartet’s third album Beds & Bugs is a rock record that could only really be released on Sub Pop. Obits are made up of four men who have quite a history within the realms of US independent rock.
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.