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Friday, September 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Vinyl Cave: Short takes with Oblivians, The Go, The Dirtbombs
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Time to start catching up on some notable newer releases that have been slowly accumulating. Let's get nostalgic for the '90s garage rock scene, with some albums by veteran acts still bringing it on stage -- at least, off and on -- to this day.


Oblivians: Desperation
Aaaaaand ... lots of aging hipster kids simultaneously explode: Who ever thought we'd see another Oblivians record? Certainly not this listener. The trio of Greg Cartwright, Eric Friedl and Jack Yarber (a.k.a. Oblivian in the band) have played reunion shows in recent years, though, and happily discovered the old magic was still there. But one of the biggest questions with reunions that spawn new material is this: What will the band will sound like? The '90s records are proudly lo/no-fi, superficially messy but always tighter-played than you remember, loud and at times gleefully provocative. The Oblivians of Desperation thankfully don't make the mistake of going overboard to remain provocative, aiding in a smooth transition to where they are at in 2013. "I'll Be Gone" could even double as a statement of purpose on that topic, with lines like "There ain't no way to know/how life will treat you so/let's rock and roll/as we get old/we will before too long."

Desperation does feature slightly cleaned up sonics courtesy of Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Studio, but still essentially sounds like an Oblivians album rather than a Reigning Sound or Jack O disc. That's at least partly because the trio retains their standard operating procedure of recording live and switching instruments -- drums and two guitars -- depending on who writes and/or sings each song. The diverging musical directions of three leaders was part of what pulled the band apart in the '90s, so it's a treat to hear the group reconvene a decade and a half later with new material.

Over the years Cartwright has grown into one of the best songwriters in the garage rock universe, kicking out classy garage rockers with a heart of sensitivo gold thumping away under the grime. Friedl's songs, usually flat-out trash rockers, are the closest in tone to his earlier Oblivians work. Yarber has had the most wide-ranging career since the late '90s, and his contributions here fall somewhere between his bandmates on the garage rock spectrum; he turns in some well chosen covers and a couple good new songs of his own. As an added bonus, Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat join in the fun on a killer cover of Stephanie McDee's "Call the Police."

This was a record it was very easy to get excited about when it was announced, and I'm pleased to say it does not disappoint. I can't stop listening to it. Now, if only they would come to Madison and play a show! In the Red Records ITR-238, 2013; includes download)

The Go: Fiesta
Oh, The Go, I love you so. The long-MIA Detroit rockers returned at the beginning of 2013 with their first album of all new material -- apart from the indie-keyboard-y Conspiracy of Owls side project -- since way back in 2007. Fiesta makes up for lost time with a sprawling double LP of eclectic rock 'n roll sounds. Since first surfacing in the late '90s as ultra-exciting scuzz rockers on Sub Pop, the group has seen their second album rejected and left in contractual limbo by the West Coast hipsters; had various members come and go; moved through musical phases deep into '70s glam and '60s garage pop sounds; and, come out on the other side with their influences and chameleon-like tendencies sort of rolled up into one big, beautiful whole that ultimately just sounds like The Go.

The core on Fiesta remains Bobby Harlow, John Krautner and Marc Fellis, augmented by guest players here and there. Someday this band will get its due, and when it does, Fiesta may end up being the favorite of a slowly growing heap of excellent, catchy-as-hell albums. The LP is already listed as sold out at Burger's website, so scout the wilds of the Internets quick if you want one ... or listen at The Go's Bandcamp page. (Burger Records BRGR-400, 2013)

The Dirtbombs: Consistency is the Enemy
Those who know what The Dirtbombs sound like likely know what to expect here, and may already have all this material; it's a compilation pulled from an earlier double-CD roundup of singles and unreleased tracks. Consistency is the Enemy gathers the songs that have not previously been released on vinyl. For those new to The Dirtbombs party, they are a long-running Detroit collective led by former Gories member Mick Collins -- he of the many '60s dime store guitars with a skronk few can equal. While the odds-and-sods nature of Consistency may not be the perfect place to start for newbies (get thee to Ultraglide in Black, sinners), it does still serve as a good sampler of what the band sounds like. Covers from sources as diverse as Junior Parker, Robyn Hitchcock and Yoko Ono sit comfortably together, which should give a clue as to the band's catholic song-gathering nature ... but the keepers here are Collins' original songs. Cass Records MAMA065, 2013)

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