Local Spotlight: The Obscure mature gracefully—and they still rock

Despite being plagued by lineup problems, local rock band The Obscure have rallied and converted six months of blood, sweat and imagination into a full-length record they can be proud of forever. The self-released Laugh Like a Whip, Look Like a Dagger is light-years ahead of their debut EP The Politics of Person, and ahead of what most local indie bands will ever achieve.

The band’s growth can be heard in the varied instrumental textures, the passionate vocal performances and the carefully nurtured lyrics. The guitars are intimate and intricate, playing around each other with savvy and melody. Whereas 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 also evident. (No surprise really, since they’ve covered Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” for years.)

Each track on Whip/Dagger has its own personality. Much of this is due to the fantastic production by Murfreesboro’s Brian Carter, but The Obscure have also worked to make their melodies catchy and a touch more complex than mere pop. With hand claps and honking guitars, “If Only” bounces effortlessly from one melody to another, repeating none. “Dearborn” offers a sort of anti-punk reconciliation with suburban life. “Give Me Some Love Sometime” stands out for its pure garage shout-along chorus alone. “Beautiful Girls” works, as many of the songs do, as a rock anthem about growing older and shedding the short-attention-span trappings of youth; bandleader Mike Gogola addresses the insecurities of “his girl,” singing, “It freaks you out, but I could care less / If you don’t look like the girls from Guess.” Likewise, the lovely fading ending of “Year of the Snake” exemplifies the maturity evident in the album as a whole, closing with the lovely sentiment, “All that’s wrong in the world fades with love from my girl.”

This piece appeared in the Nashville Scene.