Album Review: Jack Oblivian | Rat City

by Eliza C. Thompson

Memphis garage-rock heavyweight Jack Oblivian ain’t no one-trick pony, and on his latest release, Rat City (out now on Big Legal Mess), he’s making damn sure you know.

Jack Oblivian’s musical resume reads like an exhaustive list of southern garage-rock history. In the ’90s he founded trashy soul-punk band the Oblivians and garage-country-by-way-of-whiskey crooners the Compulsive Gamblers with Greg Cartwright (of Reigning Sound fame). He’s also played with the Cool Jerks, soul legend Andre Williams, ’68 Comeback, South Filthy, and the Limes, but his solo project has always been where he really shines.

Of all his albums, his latest is the one that displays the most creativity and depth in his songwriting. His last record was called The Disco Outlaw (Goner Records,
2009), but it’s on Rat City that he reveals a hint of his threadbare polyester sleeve. “Mass Confusion” features an infectious funky classic rock guitar riff backed by frenetic bass and drums, which results in a kind of awesome disco punk. “Crime of Love” starts out tasting like Talking Heads-style new wave, but when Jack’s raspy vocals kick in, they blow David Byrne right out of the dirty water and instead channel Iggy Pop.

The laid-back sweetness of the Springsteen-esque “Dark Eyes” really demonstrates Jack O’s ability at crafting pop songs. The gorgeous, heart-wrenching “Jealous Heart” also evokes the Boss due to the straightforward punchy rock-‘n’-roll style, and lyrics about a proud yet vulnerable love-scorned loner.

On Rat City, Jack Oblivian spans the musical stratosphere, but each tune drips with so much fuzz and sleaze that it fits – well, neatly would surely be an insult –messily onto one electrifying, atomic record.


–Anna Blumenthal

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