Oblivians: Desperation


Videos by American Songwriter

(In the Red)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Memphis based guitarist/auteur Greg Cartwright (aka Greg Oblivian) may have graduated to higher profile projects with work for the Detroit Cobras, Reigning Sound and the revival of Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss, but it’s his early work in the Oblivians that is arguably his most memorable. The mid-90s two-guitar/drums lineup was responsible for some of the more gritty, punked out garage rock of the era. The bass-less trio’s shows were notoriously trashed out affairs as can be heard on the hyper energized, near chaotic Rock and Roll Holiday, recorded in 1994.

The band’s somewhat unlikely reformation in 2013 results in its first album in 13 years and to say that it sounds like nothing has changed is the ultimate compliment. Everything about the appropriately titled Desperation—recorded at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound in Nashville—is unhinged and adrenalized; basically the same attitude and take no prisoners approach as when these guys were young and hungry. Recorded live in the studio like their previous releases, this is gutsy, feral and untamed. It’s a close relative to the Cramps in their prime. There’s no fluff; all but two of the 14 tracks clock in under three minutes and a third of them at less than two. Everything is wrapped up in a breathless half hour and except for titles that aren’t quite as controversial as the immortal “I’m Not a Sicko, There’s a Plate in My Head,” this makes similar groups such as the veteran Fleshtones sound like Taylor Swift. It’s all fans could have hoped for in a reunion and should whet any punker’s appetite for the tour to follow.


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