Austin's OBN IIIs Are No Retro-Rock Chumps
Photos by Renate Winter
With unlimited sweat, furious finesse and hook-heavy musical manners, Austin's OBN IIIs are the bastard child of Flamin' Groovies and Radio Birdman, just as their latest slab Live in San Francisco documents. Their closest allies in Texas are likely the equally forceful, cunning and haunting Sons of Hercules, so be prepared for a pent-up cataclysm.
Pitchfork has claimed them as retro-"townies" reinventing the anti-college rock of the 1970s, even likening them to floppy-haired heroes Van Halen and Blue Oyster Cult. Think again, and take off the revisionist glasses. OBN III's kind of grit and determination seems a lot less like the black-light poster crowd of rusted Mustangs and stinky hashish and a lot more like Budweiser slamming, take-no-prisoners garage-rock rioters from vintage MC5 to the Cynics, the Greenhornes and Zen Guerrilla. This would never have been heard on FM airwaves alongside REO Speedwagon and Asia.
Just listen to the stage banter on the live record: the rancorous asides of singer Orville Bateman Neeley III yield way more of a comparison to Fear's Lee Ving, especially as they mock a bald-head screaming at them, than to David Lee Roth's stadium-rock whoops. This kind of incendiary attitude and aggro taunting places them squarely within the domain of spit-in-your-face punk, not masturbatory bell-bottom rock.
Yet, their last studio outing, Third Time to Harm, is easily one of the best "rock" albums this year. OBN IIIs dial back the noise a bit but not the hyper-energy, cultivate an earnest swaggering soulfulness, find some surf-like territory on "The Rockin Spins," (hit single, anyone?!) and supply melodies aplenty. With the crunch and sentimentality of the Ramones but the punchiness of the Dictators at their side as well, they also mix in homegrown Texas backyard roots (harnessed by harmonica) tucked up inside such tunes. The album belongs on every jukebox in a free land.
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Like AC/DC, don't expect clean Catholic-boy outings. This is dirty, disheveled stuff, as politically incorrect as the Hickoids in full force, as "Queen Glom" demonstrates. It begins creeping and slow-as-molasses then unfurls like sordid Rolling Stones via the vibe of "Starfucker." If you want stiff indie rock pretension, stick to Spoon. But if you don't mind selling your soul to howling deep-veined rock, dig deep into foot-stomping "Parasites."
Luckily, the evening also features local power trio Talk Sick Brats, back from a manic tour of America. Their own brand of contagious, Southern California-style punk rock is a nice tonic for the local music troops, deadened for years by quasi-metal, dime-a-dozen ironic pop, and basement-jukebox hardcore. Frenetic and paced like a cheetah catching its prey, they will no doubt produce some thrills with their take-no-prisoners blitzkrieg bop.
OBN IIIs, Talk Sick Brats and Silver Blueberry perform Saturday night at Walters Downtown, 1120 Naylor. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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