Jack Oblivian: Rat City


Starting with what sounds like a dying siren, Rat City’s title track brings forth the garage rock jangle that Jack Oblivian has become revered for in some circles. Co-founder of The Compulsive Gamblers and The Oblivians, Jack Oblivian (aka Jack Yarber) has been an elder statesman in these lo-fi parts for some time, but he may have hit a high point as far as his solo efforts go with his newest release.

Rat City demonstrates Jack’s connection to the raw-dog blues rock that he specializes in (“Mass Confusion” and “Girl with the Bruises”) but there is a finesse and range of styles that keeps this briskly paced collection moving along and engaging. “Dark Eyes” is a quick love ode that has a bug-zapping guitar outro so things never enter torch song territory while “Jealous Heart” adds a structured doo-wop twist before his cover of Billy Swan’s “Lover Please!” injects a Hawaiian surf vibe into the mix.

“Crime of Love” has the feeling of being placed on the motoring engine of a ’67 Corvette as the car races down a highway via pulsing bass, maracas and hushed vocals conveying the mysteries of nighttime freeway rolling. Not all of Jack’s vocal twirls are that effective though, his warbling effect-laden vocal take on “Moses and Me” is just distracting and detrimental to the tune.

Things come back together winningly on a few tracks that are very single worthy. The Springsteen-esque “Girl on the Beach” has a summer feel while playing with an upbeat melody, lyrics and violin strums. The cover of Jewel and The Rubies “Kidnapper” is an
exhilarating rush, speeding up the original with organ swells and a skuzzy guitar finish. The closer of “Caboose Jump” spices up the album with some filthy lyrical spouts,quick six-string strums and wah-wah tinges; Jack Oblivian doesn’t reinvent rock and roll by any stretch but he sure as hell has fun playing in its sandbox and sounds pretty damn good doing so.

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