Obits don’t offer many surprises on Bed & Bugs, but that’s never really been the expectation. In a long lineage of bands, Rick Froberg has defined a distinct sound and this, Obits’ third full-length, doesn’t offer many deviations.
The success of Obits comes through classic, big r’n’r chops. It’s about taking the familiar and playing it in a new, memorable way, and it’s definitely a talent of Froberg’s to do so. “Spun Out” takes that winding guitar, stretches it out across several measures, and then kicks it out in full-on rock mode. It’s classic rock songwriting done right. Obits may be forever tied to The Night Marchers, as both bands feature ex-Hot Snakes members and released their debuts at the same time, but compared with John Reis’ project, Obits are a bit more raw. It focuses on that same primal energy, but it’s a less tamed, more unruly and undisciplined, snarling and roaring before falling back into submission.
While sometimes the songs can get a bit heavy on the riffing, they play best when dynamic shifts and structural variation are involved. “This Must Be Done” is among the standouts, brilliantly moving up and down in tempo without any awkward start/stops or confusion in the rhythm. Instead, while the song wanders between tones, its feels like one cohesive beast.
For all the talk of old school rockin’ and rollin’ here, Obits aren’t a heavy band. They’re a guitar band, yes, but not one that spews aggression or vitriol. It’s playful, tongue in cheek, and rollicking without the snide or the obscene, relying on nuance and tone rather than blunt force. They play melodies, not ideas, and it’s both simple and, alternately, complex in pulling it off. Lyrically, it’s bitter but fun: smirking.
Mentioned earlier, there can be moments of repetition that weaken the overall record and, while a song such as the atmospheric post-punk “Machines” is needed to pace the record, it’s not a direction I’m keen to see the band explore in any further depth. Similarly, the instrumental “Besetchet” doesn’t add much beyond an intermission in the middle. Bed & Bugs loses its thunder at these times, only to come back to life in roaring flame in bright and burning moments. The songs are more fleshed out than earlier work, and the band and record feel more complex and memorable as a result.
7.4 / 10
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