Obits – I Blame You (Sub Pop)
Innovation is resolutely not the goal of I Blame You, the debut album from Obits. Featuring members of Drive Like Jehu and Edsel, this is a record that shouts “practise room” throughout. It’s certainly slick enough, and has all the licks and tricks necessary for optimum dude-rock, but is there anything to suggest a life beyond identikit rock songs? Nearly every moment of I Blame You has been done before, but should that stop the album existing, particularly if the examples of re-treading are great fun?
Many of those examples are not as fun as they could be, despite the verve and skill with which they are delivered. The blues derivations wear thinnest quickest, with only vocalist Rick Froberg’s lightly-echoed howl saving the arrangements from drudgery (only just). Even this virtue is flawed – it’s never going to be a shock again to hear a man scream the blues unless it genuinely surpasses something we’ve already heard in intensity. This is no-one’s fault but mass exposure to generic tenets, but the fact remains that without some kind of elaboration or augmentation of them, any howl will sound unsurprising to many ears. Curiously, Blitzen Trapper, who share a label with Obits, are close to perfecting that trick by expanding the frames through which we can digest blues-derived music.
Mulling over each track here leads back to the same question each time – would innovation or experimentation really improve the quality? The answer will no doubt divide exactly in where it falls. If a blues-rock album is what the listener wants, with energy and fun as a standard prerequisite, then they will find it superficially. If steps toward that dubious goal of innovation (should musicians prize it above clarity and energy in expression?) are desired, then this album will not provide it readily. When a melody is allowed to breath on the closing Back And Forth (melody fans will have to wait a long time), it serves as proof that beneath Obits’ relentless bluesing is the relic of more intelligence. Intelligence is absolutely not the objective here, but because I Blame You contains evidence of it, it goes some way to nullifying the fun factor of what precedes it.
I Blame You is out on March 30th on Sub Pop – more info here.