THE TERM "INDIE ROCK" is as dead as the American dream, but for some reason when I listen to Obits it conjures those old, familiar feelings of yore when indie, college rock, and alternative meant exactly what their names implied. It makes sense, though. The members of the Brooklyn band have been around the block once or twice. Vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg spent time in bands like Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, guitarist Sohrab Habibion in Edsel. They came together in 2006 to form Obits, an act that drops the unruly, wiry guitar noise of post-punk into compact, ramshackle nuggets of garage rock.
In fact, the band's latest—Moody, Standard, and Poor—is Obits' most concise and, dare I say it, accessible work to date. Although Habibion says it wasn't an intentional shift.
"We just started cutting stuff out, trying to get to the point and using more distinct vocal melodies," he explains. "We try as much as we can not to have any preconceived ideas of recording an album."
The record makes good use of Froberg's distinct, throaty delivery, which is pulled back slightly from the unhinged screaming found on Obits' 2009 Sub Pop debut I Blame You, or the work of his former bands for that matter. The guitars still meander, but the songs never take on the laborious wankery associated with schooled musicians.
"Neither one of us are technicians as guitar players—we'd be put to shame by any Guitar Center teenager," Habibion says. "But if you're going to have two guitars, you should try to make them have a dialogue without cluttering things up."
Chalk it up to experience. From the beginning Obits have done things on their own terms, fully embracing the aesthetic of early punk rock. But they're no squares. The band's signing with Sub Pop was the result of a recording of their first show being circulated on the internet. Habibion sees Obits as a band that will be around for some time, whether their songs fill the grooves of a vinyl record or are dispatched right to the listener. "I like that we can record a song and someone can be listening to it within minutes."