Jim Herrington

Considering he's the man behind such powerful and esteemed rock outfits as Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, and his current group, Obits, Rick Froberg is decidedly modest. Of his latest band's formation, he says, "We just sort of dicked around for a while until we thought we had something that was good enough to play."

The "we" in this case is Froberg minus longtime collaborator John Reis, the other creative force behind Jehu and Hot Snakes. For Obits, Froberg is joined by Sohrab Habibion (formerly of Washington, D.C., pop-rockers Edsel), who proves a suitable counterpart on guitar, as well as drummer Scott Gursky (of Shortstack) and bassist Greg Simpson. On the band's new full-length, I Blame You, as on their two earlier 7-inches, Froberg and company retain and refine the straightforward rock of Hot Snakes (the sprawling, complex constructions of Drive Like Jehu are long gone). The rough edges are smoothed, the heavy-handed riff work is more often scrapped for melody, and Froberg does more singing and harmonizing than ever before.

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"The way Hot Snakes was divided up, mainly it would just be John and I having at it with the riffs," says Froberg. "With Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, there was just no melody, no tune, just blasting riff-type stuff, and it was totally fun. But it's nice to take an approach that [involves the vocals] more."

It's a winning approach, as Froberg's cleaned-up (yet still instantly distinctive) croon aligns sweetly with his equally recognizable guitar work. Add to this a very capable rhythm section and Habibion's tasteful, minimalistic guitar intuition, and you've got the components for yet another impressive addition to Froberg's already remarkable career. recommended