Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Obits – I Blame You

Blistering, tuneful, often ridiculously catchy dark psychedelic garage rock from Brooklyn. Obits never met a good riff they didn’t want to steal – and they really know their rock history – yet their sound is totally original. Some of the stuff here reminds of the pounding neo-garage vibe of the British band Clinic; other songs have an eerie gleam evocative of Mark Sultan. The reverb on the guitars is always turned up, the energy is pretty much through the roof, and the melodies are refreshingly counterintuitive – it’s not just the same old 1-4-5 riff over and over. Their album I Blame You came out in March on Sub Pop; they also have an ep and singles out (also available as mp3s).

The opening cut, with its long Lucifer Sam intro, is Widow of My Dreams, a gritty LES style noir garage song that sets the tone with an insistent, echoey feel and an outro that nicks a classic Keith Levene hook. With its scratchy guitar and slinky bass riff, Pine On offers shades of the MC5 complete with some nice pounding Dennis Thompson-esque drums and a Twilight zone riff. Fake Kinkade evokes mid 80s Sonic Youth stomping through an early Alice Cooper demo, but better.  One of the catchier numbers here, Two-Headed Coin works a 60s bass riff and more reverb guitar for a pretty noir feel.

Catchy downstroke guitar gives Run a sound like Interpol doing the retro thing. The title track is a little instrumental, kind of Booker T on acid, with reverb guitars and a neat funky shuffle beat. The next cut, Talking to the Dog is a stomping Velvets pop song gone completely unhinged. Track eight, Light Sweet Crude is tense and suspenseful with screechy jazz chords and a long build with a sweet payoff. The most Stoogoid track here is Lilies in the Street, with its real cool 4-chord turnaround on the chorus and a big long guitar buildup that fades down gracefully into feedback at the end. Frontman Rick Froberg  rails that he’s “tired of playing Pollyanna, tired of being a ghost” on the angry, minor-key SUD. The next cut, Milk Cow Blues is classic 60s psych in the 13th Floor Elevators vein with a sweet macabre edge. The cd ends with Back and Forth, a Pretty Things-style, early 60s R&B tune.

Their earlier stuff alternates between an early 90s LES feel like the Chrome Cranks, more jaggedly riff-oriented and strung out, and an inoffensively generic post-Sonic Youth indie sound. It’s very auspicious to see to see how much the band has grown since then. If this new album is any indication they should be killer live. Obits play South St. Seaport on one of the year’s best doublebills, opening for the recently reunited and reinvigorated Polvo on 7/31 at 7 PM.

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July 26, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams – Snowblind

Erica Smith got her start as a bartender at the old Fast Folk Café singing sea chanteys and similar ancient folk material after hours, and her first album reflected that, just stark acoustic guitar and a voice that could draw blood from a stone. Friend or Foe, her next one, was a lushly orchestrated affair, but the material was still mostly covers. This time around, Smith sings mostly her own material, a vastly diverse mix of retro styles. This is her quantum leap, an album which firmly places her in the top echelon of current Americana sirens along with Neko Case, Eleni Mandell, Jenifer Jackson et al. It may be early in the year, but if this doesn’t turn out to be the best album of 2008, something very special will have to come along to unseat it.

Although most of the album is recent material, everything here sounds like it was written no later than 1980. Both of the jangly Merseybeat numbers, Easy Now and Amanda Carolyn have an authentically mid-60s feel, as does the slinky samba-pop number Tonight. The tantalizingly brief Firefly bounces along on an impossibly catchy Carnaby Street melody. Feel You Go is a vehicle for Smith’s dazzlingly powerful soul vocals, snaking along on a Booker T riff. The best song on the album, the gorgeously swaying, country-inflected The World Is Full of Pretty Girls could be the great lost track on American Beauty, guest steel player Jon Graboff playing soaring, haunting washes against lead guitarist Dann Baker’s steady jangle. And In Late July, with its pastoral, hypnotic layers of vocals and organ would fit well on an early 70s, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd album.

The title track is an authentically retro, completely psychedelic cover of the obscure Judy Henske/Jerry Yester blues/metal song, originally recorded in 1969. This version gives Smith a chance to do some goosebump-inducing belting, and lets drummer Dave Campbell – who may just be the finest drummer in all of rock – show off his devious, remarkably musical sensibility with a solo simmering with all kinds of unexpected textures. Guest organist Matt Keating spices the obscure Blow This Nightclub classic Where or When with weird, early 80s synth organ, as the bass player slams out a riff nicked directly from the Cure, circa 1980. And Smith’s lone venture into Nashville gothic here, appropriately titled Nashville, Tennessee evokes Calexico or the Friends of Dean Martinez with its eerie, tremolo guitar and haunting minor-key melody. The final cut on the album, a Beach Boys cover, may not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s beside the point. Recorded in analog on two-inch tape, Smith’s production gives this album the feel of a vinyl record, drums comfortably in the back, vocals and guitars front and center. In a particularly impressive display of generosity, the band will be giving away copies of the album to everyone in attendance at the cd release show this Friday, Jan 25 at 8 PM at the Parkside.

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments