It’s always fun to hear an artist that dabbles in genres that differ from one another. Except those musicians are few and far between these days. In the past we’ve witnessed a lot of greats take one hundred-eighty degree turnarounds such as Ween dabbling in country on 12 Golden Country Greats, The Beastie Boys who’ve made every type of song imaginable, and then, of course, Bob Dylan, who took on a different persona on every release. Switching lanes on the genre road worked for those artists, among others, so why aren’t fans seeing this trend anymore?
I suppose there are a few artists such as Dan Auerbach who had a great release this week titled Waiting on a Song, and (Sandy) Alex G’s newest LP Rocket are great strides for both artists, but on a greater scale there aren’t a lot. One artist who is doing this successfully is Obnox. If you aren’t familiar with the one man punk band from Cleveland, you should be. Obnox, whose real name is Lamont Thomas, has curated a noisy discography that has something for everyone whether it’s his straight forward noise-punk material on 2016’s Boogalou Reed, or his flirtation with hip hop on the Louder Space LP. His most recent album, Niggative Approach, is no exception.
Without getting to wordy, it’s a funk album. I was expecting something that attempted to make my ears bleed like Thomas’ previous material but Niggative Approach didn’t. The album title is also something to be noted. In a genre that seems to change about once a decade, Obnox takes on the task of being that artist that shakes things up by titling his album as a nod towards Detroit hardcore pioneers, Negative Approach. This is a good Segway into the tracks.
The album opens out with a sample from John Brannon who fronts Negative Approach among other bands. Being from Michigan, myself, I was geeked to hear the still active rocker doing something new as he’s not known for it. There’s not much to say on the first track, Brannon Weighs In, other than that.
The next track is where things get interesting. Hardcore Matinee has an almost Flying Lotus-esque groove to it but still holds the punk influence obviously through its lyrical content, but also through it’s simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. Thomas makes a great statement towards the stagnant punk scenes of today through Hardcore Matinee and other tracks including Never Gonna Beat Myself up Again and the title track which points out the relation between minority groups and their involvement in fringe culture.
My personal favorite track on Niggative Approach has got to be Carmen, I Love You. The album, which up to this point has been a vast landscape of layered melodies and textures peaks at this song emotionally. The listener should forget who they’re listening to around Carmen, I Love You; a ballad that takes ques from Midwest soul groups like Parliament or anything Motown released in the seventies. The tracks that follow, however, are classic Obnox.
Starting around the song, Audio Rot, Niggative Approach is a digression back into Thomas’ darker side. The element of funk is still present throughout these last few tracks but it’s an evil funk; a post-nuclear holocaust funk that Obnox achieves. There’s not as much groove by the time we get to King Aboriginal but the rhythm is the last remaining factor in Thomas’s breakdown not only of punk but of r&b as well.
So genre-jumping; listeners should support their favorite artists when they want to do so. It keeps things interesting for us and, who knows, maybe those same favorite bands might find their new niche by toying with completely different genres. Although, Dinosaur Jr. making a polka album is probably where I’d draw the line.
Click here to listen to Hardcore Matinee.
– By Mike Metcalf