Reminiscent of early Fastball and Barenaked Ladies, The Obsoletes do not easily fit into the mold that so many new-rock bands find themselves. Mixing so many inflences, Uncle Tupelo and Matthew Sweet to name a few, The Obsoletes burn through “Is This Progress” with the talent necessary to string together so many different bands without seeing bland or rote. Each track is mastered to such a point to flow perfectly into each other, even allowing major bridges to be erected from pop-rock to alt-country (like “The Other Side Of America”). Instead of being complacent, The Obsoletes do go out to the fringes of comfortability with tracks like the slowed-down vocals of “Little Girl”, which are bolstered by a stomping blues-like guitar lick not previously seen on the disc. The laid back tone of “Is This Progress?” is deceptive, as Justin’s smooth yet slightly scratchy vocals contain a necessity, an urgent message that is enveloped.
Having a band like The Riverdales (who own 1-4-5 Records) supporting your band would be a boost to practically anyone playing music today, but Justin and the crew are used to large budgets, being on Ben Weasel’s Panic Button Records, as well as Drive-Thru. Aurally similar, the opening to “P.O. Box”, even down to the cowbell-sounds of the first strains of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” is a masterpiece due to the extremely different tack that The Obsoletes have taken. In this track, their punk roots begin to show as the bass and drums work within the dynamic. The ultimate track, “The Town That You Grew Up In” binds together each facet of The Obsoletes, whether it be the definite alt-country influence or slightly snotty vocal tone of Justin, and makes an extraordinarily compelling track. Tiptoeing precariously near to the breakdowns incorporated by contemporary country, The Obsoletes make a heart-wrenching track about a lost love.
Finishing up “Is This Progress?” with a down and dirty rock track, belying the general sound of the disc, cutting through all of the enervating haze laid down by the slower tempo of the rest of the disc, even recalling memories of the guitar assaults made popular by Kiss. The guitar has its high point during this track, sounding as if even the player eirself really can’t control this maverick guitar, only barely reining it in at the last possible second. What I personally wonder is why The Obsoletes did not put this track at the beginning of the disc, as it would still mesh reasonably well with the rest of the material on the disc, and even allows for listeners to connect more with the band. Solid stuff that shows that even individuals in the music industry do not necessarily need to become jaded after a decade of work.
Top Tracks: The Town That You Grew Up In, Little Gurl
The Obsoletes – Is This Progress? / 2004 1-4-5 Records / 12 Tracks / http://www.theobsoletes.com / http://www.145records.com / Reviewed 22 August 2004