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Moody, Standard and Poor
Obits Moody, Standard and Poor
Released 25 March 2011
Producer Sanoff-Janney, Obits
Label Sub Pop
Length 35:03
Genre Rock, post punk
Website www.obitsurl.com

Born from the rubble of the Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu (Rick Froberg- vocals rhythm) and Edsel (Sohrab Habibion- lead guitar and vocals), Brooklyn’s Obits released their debut I Blame You back in 2009. Lead singer Froberg’s DIY ethic is admirable, there is no messing around when it comes to being in and out of bands, he even does his own album art work. Obits debut signalled a change from previous bands, less math rock/post hardcore, more amped up rock via surf music and rockabilly.

Their second album on Sub Pop, Moody, Standard and Poor  doesn’t sway too much from the debut, but there have been some changes. Things have been tidied and strengthened. It is more melodic sounding too, not as stripped back as before. But for the most part if you loved the debut, you’ll love Moody. Geoff Sanoff and Eli Janney return as producers and they stick to the traditional guitar/bass/drum combo throughout, with the exception of 'Standards' with its pulsating intonations of an electric piano.

The Obits approach seems instinctive as opposed to premeditated. To dwell on and scrutinise the album would be missing the point, like looking at a Warhol print trying to decipher meaning. The album feels like the band plugged in, played and plugged out a little over half an hour later, an album intact. This is a steadfast, traditional and tenacious approach to guitar driven rock'n'roll. We often hear this in relation to populous bands like Kings of Leon and Oasis, but here it’s the truth.

Album opener 'You Gotta Lose' is a stomping start to proceedings, Scott Gursky’s drums are beat with motorized precision and Froberg’s hi-octane vocal delivery is maintained throughout, shifting only slightly when Habibion takes over leads vocals on 'Shift Operator' and 'Standards'. The following track 'I Want Results' brags Greg Simpson's swaggering bass, another integral component of what makes this album shuffle along at its break neck pace. The outlook is grim on 'Better in the Sun', "don’t everything look better in the morning... Don’t everything stink to high heaven by afternoon?" And is an example of the anguish implied in a lot of their lyrics. 'Shift Operator' with its distorted and feedback laden beginning sounds like a Stooges number, in fact several songs recall the band. Habibion takes lead vocal duties here and they are more subdued than Froberg's, but the latter adds additional yelps and consistency is maintained.

Failed relationships and break ups were subject matter broached on I Blame You, and are plentiful here again. On 'Shift Operator' they muse over resolution, "you don’t want solutions, you just want a way out...Don’t see the point in talking, I talk but you just shout" but is juxtaposed with 'No Fly List' which is a pure exorcism of relationship demons, with its inspiring refrain of insults, "Mother fucking tittie sucking two ball bitch...You’re on the No Fly List". It has everything you want from a break up song, total venom and humour. However the song does end with the empathetic meditative "these are the days you can’t control", and don’t we know it. The unlucky in love stance is further  exemplified on 'Standards' and Habibion sounds defeated when he sings, "I just see a ghost when I look into your eyes" and, "death is knocking at my door".

Like 'No Fly List', 'Spot the Pikey' demonstrates the band’s sense of humour, a solid instrumental, broken by  a group chorus singing the title in unison, it shows us that the Brooklynites get a kick out of some limey slang. 'New August' is a sign that some resolution may be coming, "All the things I used to do don’t work like they did before, self medication don’t seem to improve my station". It’s not just broken relationships, there is an overtone of dissatisfaction with everything. This theory is enhanced by  turbulent closer 'I Blame Myself' which might be some kind of companion piece to the title track from I Blame You, both are intense instrumentals and considering all the “blame” thrown around throughout the record, you can’t help feel that maybe something has been resolved.

Moody, Standard and Poor is the sound of a band who are evolving, albeit at a slow pace. There is a stubbornness for the rudimentary that they need to drop. It makes for a good album but they’re going to have to take a few more risks in order to be great. Their approach is instinctual and that’s what’s most satisfying. Drums with no room for tired fills, (is there ever a need for fills? Drums should punctuate not bore) guitars that have polished the strum of surf, garage and rockabilly into a spiky tone with bass lines that strut alongside. They’re more melodic and probably more accessible that before, still owing a debt to the Sonics and the Stooges, but it’s not retro sounding; it’s an acknowledgment to the past but finds its grounding in the contemporary.

- Ray Burke