The Obscure, Laugh Like A Whip, Look Like a Dagger

[This review originally appeared in The Scene.]

The Obscure – Laugh like a Whip, Look Like a Dagger (self-released)

Well, they’ve done it. In the course of a few short years, plagued by line-up problems, the Obscure rallied and put 6 months of blood, sweat and imagination into a full-length record and achieved something that most local indie bands never will: they’ve made a record they will be proud of forever. Laugh like a Whip, Look Like a Dagger is light years ahead of their debut EP, Politics of Person, in terms of musical growth.

The growth in the band is heard not only in the instrumental textures (which are many) but also in the passionate vocal performances and carefully nutured lyrics. The guitars are more intimate and intricate, playing around each other with more savvy and melody. Where before, the Obscure were likely to give the impression of a garage band run amok, now surfaces the soul of four fine musicians crafting their own sound out of the remnants of their influences. The garage element is still there, but hints of New Wave and post-punk are evident. No surprise really since they’ve covered Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” for years.

“If Only” bounces along through hand claps and honking guitars effortlessly from one melody to another, repeating none. “Dearborn” offers a sort of anti-punk sentiment as the lyrics offer the singer’s reconciliation with suburban life. “Give Me Some Love Sometime” is a standout for its pure garage shout-along chorus. “Beautiful Girls” works, as many of the songs do, as a rock anthem of growing older and shedding the short-attention span trappings of youth. In it, singer Mike Gogola addresses the insecurities of “his girl” – “It freaks you out but I could care less / If you don’t look like the girls from Guess.” Likewise, the lovely fading ending to “Year of the Snake” displays this same maturity: “All that’s wrong in the world fades with love from my girl.”

Each track takes on a personality of its own. Much of this is surely due to the fantastic production by Murfreesboro’s Brian Carter. But the Obscure have worked to make their melodies catchy but a touch more intricate than pop. It’s a singular achievement and one that the band should be immensely proud of.