Released Sept. 10th on Sub Pop
After releasing a pair of really good singles last year, Obits are back with their third studio album. Bed & Bugs finds the group following their muse in in various stylistic directions. The punkier rockers on here—”Taste the Diff”, “Operation Bikini”, and “I’m Closing In”—are my favorites, but they don’t represent the album’s overall character. The sound of the record as a whole is better summarized in midtempo stompers like “Spun Out”, “Pet Trust”, “Malpractice”, and “This Girl’s Opinion” which employ garage, surf, and psychedelic rock elements. “It’s Sick” utilizes a sinister riff that in some ways recalls frontman Rick Froberg’s collaborations with John Reis, building to a dirty rocker before crashing down again. Some other tracks pull back significantly on the momentum to to emphasize interlocking guitars and demonstrate the band’s knack for creating sonic space that opens up their songs. “This Must Be Done” and “Receptor” are the most obvious examples.
There are two really out-there tracks: “Besetchet” is a cover of an orchestral song from the Ethiopiques series of Ethiopian musicians; in Obits’ hands it’s a sparse instrumental number with a bit of a voodoo surf vibe. Then there’s “Machines”, a yawny number on which Sohrab Habibion takes the mic and sings about slumber and dreams; the track seems designed to put anyone to sleep. Album closer “Double Jeopardy (For the Third Time)” is something of an oddity as well, a sputtering, mostly-instrumental number that feels anticlimactic. With “Machine” immediately preceding, the album seems to fizzle out rather than find a proper ending, though that’s not entirely out of character for Obits.
The stylistic explorations of Bed & Bugs aren’t going to interest everyone. I attended the band’s show a few weeks ago, and even some friends of mine who were there said they didn’t care much for the album. I’ll admit it doesn’t do as much for me as last year’s singles did, but that’s not to discount it. There are enough numbers on here that I like to give it more chance to grow on me, and though I don’t expect to be enthused by every avenue Obits go down, they’re still delivering solidly on whatever direction they’re pursuing at a given moment.