It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly twenty years since the last proper Oblivians release. 9 Songs With Mr. Quintron came out in 1997 and solo releases from Greg Cartwright and Jack Yarber, as well as the sporadic reformation of Compulsive Gamblers, followed a year later. As the 00s arrived, those still hoping for an Oblivians reunion were instead treated to Cartwright and Yarber’s latest projects: Reigning Sound and The Tearjerkers. Aside from fronting their own new bands, both men also lent their talents to other projects. Cartwright became a producer in demand (Mr. Airplane Man, Deadly Snakes, Porch Ghouls, etc.), went on tour with Detroit Cobras and made a record with Mary Weiss while Yarber became a gun for hire lending his guitar work to many projects: Harlan T. Bobo, Panther Burns, The Limes and The Cool Jerks to name a few. Eric Friedl also kept busy playing in a handful of bands, most notably Bad Times with Jay Reatard, and running the excellent Goner Records label and store. For nearly a decade, there was no sign of Oblivians until Friedl announced that the band would reunite and would play with The Gories for a handful of shows. Subsequent one offs followed but no recorded material until the split 7” with Andre Ethier that was recorded for Scion in 2010.
Three years later and we have a proper full-length. Desperation which finds the boys in fine form as one would expect since all three have actively kept themselves in the game since the band officially called it quits in 1998. Oblivians deliver fourteen songs, all are split between Cartwright and Yarber with the exception of Friedl’s “Woke Up in a Police Car”, three are covers including “Mama Guitar” which was written for Andy Griffith’s character in A Face in the Crowd. There’s also a cover of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “Loving Cup” that Yarber makes nice and dirty as well as a take on an obscure zydeco track called “Call the Police” that Cartwright, with the help of Mr. Quintron, turns into a hip shaking barn-burner. I’m a huge Cartwright fan but it might be Yarber’s “Back Street Hangout,” a slinky rocker with a New Orleans groove and a nasty reverb-drenched guitar solo, that stands above the rest. Not an easy feat considering the number of quality songs on Desperation. No longer is Oblivians a sloppy garage band. Each member has significantly improved his chops over the last sixteen years making Desperation your must own beer drenched summer soundtrack. [In The Red]
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