Record of the Week

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The Latest From The Oblivians

The Latest From The Oblivians

Minutes into their first album in more than 15 years, the Oblivians sing about waking up in a police car.

Guitars faintly double as sirens while insouciant vocals indicate more than just casual indifference. When you hear the trio’s offhand deliveries, you know these guys have been there before. There’s no faking, no pretense, no make-believe about what it’s like to be aroused from a drunken slumber only to smell the plastic vinyl of a worn bench seat, look up, and realize you’re headed to jail.

The band’s nose for cheap thrills, thirst for even cheaper drinks, and lust for back-street pursuits permeates Desperation, a raw garage-rock album recorded live to a one-inch Scully eight-track recorder at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studio. Polished and pristine it is not. But immense fun lies within the 14 tracks, which include a jump-and-jive cover of Paul Butterfield’s “Loving Cup” that’s held together by salvaged instruments and sweaty desire. A similarly strong-willed do-it-yourself spirit comes to fore on a majority of the set, which resides in the same territory populated by seedy bars, glue-sniffing characters, and dark alleys.

Songs mirror the shady environments. Overdriven rhythms strut akin to alluring streetwalkers; charged tempos and stripped-back instrumentation hint at the campy shock sequences of 50s B-horror movies; simple percussive beats dig in and sway as if leading a parade of stiletto heels. Almost everything is caked in motor-oil grime, but the fuzz-box distortion never becomes overbearingly heavy or claustrophobic. Rather, the Oblivians honor their Memphis hometown by way of classic soul and stylish R&B figures that aren’t far removed from those preferred by Wilson Pickett or the Mar-Keys. The latter musicians’ legacies live on in the party anthem “Call the Police,” a collaboration with Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat that both gets down by way of a steaming-hot organ and makes good on its promise to “tear it down.”

Trashy, basement-reared rattling—as well as a penchant for sniffing around places and people your mother warned you about—also informs the wiry “Little War Child” and ringing “Pinball King.” Each contagious tune is evidence the Oblivians know their way around British Invasion hooks and surf-pop choruses as well as they do dive establishments most groups are too timid to visit.

And you can purchase it from SoundStageDirect right here…