It’s a good thing we reviewed obe‘s album teaser in 2012, because it’s taken 21 months for the full release to appear. Fortunately, it’s been worth the wait. The two excellent tracks of the Standard Cheese EP are included here, and are joined by seven other rocking tunes. After taking the album on a road trip this past weekend, I can attest that it passes muster. It’s way too energetic to be stuck in traffic; this is the sound of the speed limit and beyond.
When last we encountered obe (formerly Orders of the British Empire), they had adopted a harder-edged sound and were looking for a second guitarist to pump up the jams. Somewhere along the way, they found what they needed. The beauty of this release – a debut album after three EPs – is that the early tracks are not the only highlights. Partners is pretty much a non-stop affair, packed with riffage and plunder, filled to the gills with dynamic drums and bourbon-sweet bass. Forget those post-rock pieces found on the first two EPs, as none of them made the final cut. This was a good idea in terms of matching timbre, although it meant the band had to compose a few more songs. Ironically, the first effective moment arrives at 1:55 of the opening track, when the band stops rocking for a bit; this appreciation of dynamic contrast allows the album to seem deeper than it would without. In this segment, the ghost of post-rock has beefed up, and reappears as a muscular spectre. Whether intentional or not, the association is cemented by the similarity between the deer found on the cover and the one pictured on Sparrows Swarm and Sing’s O’ Shenandoah, Mighty Death Will Find Me. That proud deer was ready to rock; this deer is ready to fight.
The most memorable riffs (and best post-rock title) arrive on “Crabcore City Central, Dragon, FLY!”. But the most enjoyable track is probably “Backcracker”, which jumps from riff to riff before deciding that it needs a breakdown. Even then, the band keeps the energy high. For a few seconds, the track seems to end, before exploding from silence like a grenade. It’s taken obe five years to get to this point, but the long gestation has produced a mature, confident sound. We’re always glad to see a band grow into an identity, and it seems that obe now knows who it is and where it is headed. Our guess: festivals. This is where the fan base expands. (Richard Allen)