August 29th, 2007 Jason Simms | Special Section Stories
 

The Obituaries

1 am, Ash Street Saloon.

     
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[BLUES PUNK] Once you’ve heard Monica Nelson’s voice, you’ll recognize it anywhere. Which is remarkable because there’s no gimmick—no affected accent, no Biafra-esque vibrato. It’s just completely unguarded and volatile: smooth and jazzy one moment, soaring another, screeching the next.

After a decade-long hiatus, Nelson returned to the Portland music scene a couple of years ago with a project called Generation. But this MusicfestNW appearance marks only the second show in nearly 20 years from the Obituaries, Nelson’s recently reunited first band. And all four current players were members during the band’s ’80s heyday, including guitarist Rob Landoll—whose warm, slightly metal-influenced style is the perfect complement to Nelson’s voice. It sounds like the missing link between the Wipers and grunge (and, fittingly, Soundgarden and Nirvana both once opened for the Obituaries).

The Obits’ now-classic blues-punk songs always combined simple with smart, but their lyrical genius is even more clear in retrospect. It’s hard for any songwriter—let alone a 17-year-old—to craft a tasteful, gripping verse about suicide, but Nelson’s classic verses on such topics stand strong today, and they’re still held close to the hearts of the group’s fans. But no one’s happier about the Obituaries’ return than the band members themselves: “One of the frustrating things was that we didn’t release a lot of our best stuff,” says Landoll, who can’t wait to play it all over again.

 
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