Sohrab Habibion is one of the singers and guitar players in the just ridiculously great band Obits (whose records are available on the Sub Pop label: surprise!). Obits just happen to have a new record, which was released yesterday, March 29th, 2011, entitled Moody, Standard and Poor . And, in addition to Sohrab being one of the smarter, more thoughtful people we’ve ever met (read this for some indication of what I’m talking about), the occasion of their new album’s release seems about as good an excuse as we need (note: we don’t really need any excuse, so that’s maybe setting the bar a little low…), to mark what we really hope will be the glorious or at least somewhat noticed return of our “For the Record” series. “For the Record”, for the record, is the thing we sometimes do on our website where we convince someone in a band on the label to write a bit about a record from the Sub Pop catalog, and we then attempt to use this as a method of maybe selling you guys some copies of the record in question at what we hope to be a very appealing discount-type price.
No doubt you get the picture already.
So, here’s Sohrab from Obits on The Grifters’ Ain’t My Lookout (fondly and not at all frequently referred to around here as Ain’t My Cookout)…
Band: The Grifters
Record: Ain’t My Lookout
When we told you the first time: February 13, 1996
The first time I heard the Grifters was in ‘92, I think, around the time their “Corolla Hoist” 7" came out. I don’t remember who played it for me, but it really resonated. The slight dissonance of the instrumental interplay with a vocal melody that finally came into focus after about a minute or so of darting around the snare drum and a loose-wristed, ascending guitar line. But it was the b-side to their Soda Pop 7", “She Blows Blasts Of Static”, that really hooked me. It seemed equally informed by classic rock riffs and weirdo, late-70’s art punk. Each time the song fell apart, it returned with even more fervor.
Not much later I got a chance to see the band play at the 15 Minutes Club, one of the less conventional venues in DC at the time. It was a lunchtime soul food kitchen for government employees by day with a bare bones PA for local and touring bands at night. Grifters took the stage pretty casually, fumbled lackadaisically into their set and then proceeded to decimate the two dozen or so people in the room. The songs I knew were only recognizable at points and, in general, it felt like all bets were off. Why wasn’t Stan, the drummer, playing on that part? Was that a phaser on Tripp’s bass guitar? The unspoken and uptight rules that my friends and I had all been following in our bands were left looking for parking spaces on 14th street. It was as if any instrument could start or stop or rudely interrupt the proceedings, but nothing felt gratuitous or indulgent.
Fast forward a few years. The band had released One Sock Missing and Crappin’ You Negative, both of which were terrific albums, filled with moody and memorable songs. “Junkie Blood” still gives me chills. And then “The Eureka” EP came out, which felt like a perfect summation of the band up to that point. They knew how to deconstruct familiar elements and put them back together in slightly askew and strangely beautiful ways. And Dave’s voice sounded like Rod Stewart or Mick Jagger if either had been fans of Wire or the Vibrators. As far as I was concerned, this was the best band in America.
In 1996 I knew a handful of folks who had cell phones and maybe an AOL account, but there were no RSS feeds to follow a band’s tour dates or blogs to blare a PR stream of upcoming releases. So when Ain’t My Lookout was released I only knew about it when I saw it at my local record store. And it was on Sub Pop, a label I respected for putting out Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” 7" and Love Battery’s “Between The Eyes” EP (also Journey To The Center Of Cat Butt, but I’ll save that for another time). I was excited to get the record home and dig into it.
Ain’t My Lookout is a fuller recording than anything the band had done before, but just as woozy and gloriously lopsided as I could’ve hoped for. Long, languorous melodies stretched out over spikes of ugly distortion, bent notes unveiling clearly picked guitar chords and occasional blips that sounded like someone bumped into a Hammond organ. And lyrics. Real lyrics. Words that actually sounded interesting and made me want to follow the character sketches, drunken confessions and angry admonitions and try to understand the inside jokes.
Fourteen years later, quite magically, it all sounds just as fresh. A sloppy marriage of Big Star and The Lurkers, as officiated by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In my collection they actually fall between Green On Red and the Groundhogs, which is perfect. It’s truly timeless rock’n’roll, so if you don’t have this record already, here’s your chance to get it on the cheap.
For the next 48 hours, you can go HERE to get Ain’t My Lookout at our FTR sale price of $6 CD/$4 Mp3.