Friday, December 13, 2019

Can't stop my brain from thinking


"I've gotten my teeth chipped from people who think it's okay to slam shit in my face and tackle me. I've stepped on a lot of broken glass. I've been air punching and caught a nail in my fist from the ceiling. I've bruised the fuck out of my knees, and will probably have really bad knees in 20 years."

That's Orville Bateman Neeley III. He made these remarks five years ago, so his scars have probably only deepened. His band OBN IIIs is here because you need them. The Austin-based rock and roll group's led by Neeley (he also raises roofs in Bad Sports) and their sound cuts through the muck and the blandness, helps you press re-set, and reminds you of the elemental power of two guitars, a bass, drums, and a howler, playing loud and singing desperately about desperate stuff. (Not just "feelings." Ideas, too.) They haven't released a full-length album since 2015 and I really hope they get back at it—because I want to see 'em live, and because at their best their songs plug in to something timeless: anger and release. Who wouldn't benefit from that right about now? These days, none our brains can stop from thinking.

I'm currently obsessed with the line "I think I'm in love with the girl who does my Tarot," in "Self-Hate," from the band's 2012's self-titled album. It's so evocative that the story's all there—it could've been the title of an instrumental. The girl's not described physically, only by what she does, so the attraction comes from what she promises, from her divination skills, or her skill at bullshitting, depending—the power she possesses to make or break his future. Who wouldn't fall in love with that? But the song goes one better by hanging around long enough for the chorus, where Neeley sings "Don't want to be in love with my self-hate," which is an adult and probably a wise thing to sing. Where does she fit in? As a way out of the self-hatred maybe, with those cards, that tantalizing future. If it all sounds a bit obscure for a rock and roll song, well, OBN IIIs were listening carefully to whatever playlist was in the van on the way to the studio. It rocks.

What I love about OBN IIIs' best songs is their refusal to wallow, to sink deeper into the morass of nihilism or negativity. It's there for sure—these guys are pissed and it shows—but they also know that rock and roll is a way out, that eighth notes can lead you up as well as down. "A lot of parts of my life are really slow, boring, and lonely, actually," Neeley said in 2014. "'No Time for the Blues' is basically me saying that I have nothing to complain about. Anytime I catch myself getting down about things, I remind myself I don't have time to be upset. I just need to keep doing stuff."


In a 2015 Austin Chronicle profile of Neeley, Tim Segall writes that "Classic rock radio and [Neeley's] parents' Columbia House cassette collection stayed in heavy rotation in the family car.

"'My favorite tape was that first Boston album,' he says. 'Then, by the time I was 6, I was really getting into the Beatles and Queen. I liked the Rolling Stones, too'."
Eventually, Kiss, AC/DC, and the Cars joined Green Day in Neeley's budding tape collection, followed by Metallica, Motörhead, and Black Sabbath in eighth grade. That year, he wrote his first song on guitar, while two years' worth of savings from washing cars and mowing lawns bought his first teenage drum kit. ("It had the worst cymbals I had in my life! They broke within the first month I had them!") A ticket to the Warped Tour in 2000 finally tipped him over into punk, even if most of its bands hardly appear in his recent musical diet.
I approve of those influences. Here's some video of the guys tearing it up in the studio in 2014:

Photo via Zac Sprague

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