When future generations recall this fractured period in human history, hoping to grasp the malaise, frustration and angst pervading our collective psyche, they'll find its most artful soundtrack rendered by a band from Brooklyn, NY called Obits. Principal lyricist Rick Froberg and Sohrab Habibion are tastefully subtle and don't sing about anything too explicitly, but there's a pointed aspect to the narratives on this walloping new album. "I'm so tired of my dreams," Froberg sings on the record's centrepiece, "New August," articulating a feeling of hopelessness that's relatable virtually anywhere in the world these days, though, as the draconian tone of "No Fly List" coyly implies, some of us might be resigned to only experience it from home. Fans can find clue-like connections to past songs ("You Gotta Lose" and "I Blame Myself" nominally recall "I Can't Lose" and "I Blame You") and there's a wit to Obits' entire scene. The musical interplay is deceptively straight-ahead; the guitar/bass/drums combo deftly write powerful, infectious, no frills punk-blues songs that enhance rock conventions simply by being better at them than almost anyone else. As Earth wobbles on its axis, Obits are bent on stomping it back into place.
"No Fly List" is my favourite song of 2011. What inspired it?
Froberg: The first verse is based on a playground rhyme I remembered from childhood. The rest is inspired by, what, the current climate? Social political climate? I dunno.
Is the record about marginalization?
There's no idea or theme behind it, but it seems like it's about a feeling of powerlessness, generally, in every facet of life. The margins have narrowed, generally, but I don't think "marginalization" is the right word. There's a certain poverty of inspiration and energy and things are going to shit. It's really hard to explain what I mean. If I was better at it, I'd do a speaking tour or something.
Whenever we talk, you seem to downplay your lyrics…
I don't want to downplay it, but it could be high school poetry, as far as I'm concerned. Some of these things are pretty obvious and you want people to have some sort of interpretation. If you explain everything, it's sort of tyrannical, in a way, because they're like, "That's what this song's about; it came from the horse's mouth." I don't set out to say anything in particular; I just put crap on paper. (Sub Pop)