The OBGMs – ‘The Ends’

By Ellie Odurny

Hailing from Toronto, The OBGMs are a punk rock trio marching to the beat of their own drum. A lot has changed in the past couple of years for vocalist and guitarist Densil McFarlane, drummer Colanthony Humphrey and bassist Joe Brosnan, and second album ‘The Ends’, shows a renewed, reinvigorated band who are ready to make themselves known to the world.

In true modern punk style, the album is packed full of short, sharp, punchy numbers, and clocks in at under half an hour. ‘The Ends’ is a whirlwind ride along the themes of anger, truth, and attitude, bolstered with catchy beats, authentic lyrics and genre crossing influences.

Energetic opening track ‘Outsah’ cranks the engine to full speed from the get-go, with ferocious bongos (yes, bongos), distortion, thrashing chords and shouted vocals rammed into just under two minutes of gritty, impassioned garage punk.

The first release from the album, ‘Cash’, mixes upbeat indie guitars with simple but catchy chord progressions, topped by McFarlane’s charismatic gravelly vocals. These aren’t overly complex songs, but they’re brilliantly balanced, combining just the right levels of lively guitar licks, neat production, and aggressive intent. Lead single ‘Fight Song’ displays more of this slick mixing of candid frustration with catchy riffs, neatly packaged into a quick-fire, hard-hitting track.

The punk outlook and visceral anger continues into the lyrics spat and growled out on tempo-hopping ‘Triggered’ and the less frantic, but equally uncompromising, ‘WTFRU’. Compromise doesn’t feature on this album at all – a key departure from their 2017 debut according to McFarlane, who describes the pivotal change in approach being when he “stopped thinking about other people”. The songs on ‘The Ends’ are unapologetically authentic, concentrating on issues central to the band and their community.

Juxtaposing the rawness of the punkier numbers is pop-rocked tinged anthem ‘All My Friends’, the final track to be released before the full album is unleashed. With a singalong melody and a slower pace, it eases off on the ferocity but still maintains an air of world-weariness, highlighting the limitations of potential success in the band’s home town of Toronto without first achieving greater notoriety in the US or the UK. In a similar pop infused vein, ‘Not Again’ covers themes of denial and self-destruction, adding enough vocal distortion to give an edge to the track without detracting from the lyrics and performance.

There’s a sense of confidence and unashamed self-assurance on ‘The Ends’ that sets it apart from The OBGMs’ previous releases. Along with this feeling of pride and personal relevance for the band, there’s also an important presence of black punk rock musicians in a hugely underrepresented genre. Talking about the importance of this representation, McFarlane says “I was inspired to make rock music when I saw a black guy onstage, and if someone sees that in us, I hope it will inspire a new generation to go after this”.

The album winds down on a bluesier, more mellow note, compared to the furious punk fuelled introduction. ‘Karen O’s’ sees the return of an electronic tinge that was much more prevalent in The OBGMs’ previous record, and ‘To Death’ keeps a steady pace with the cleanest vocals of the album, the melancholy chords and layered vocals verging on ballad territory. Final track ‘Move On’ evokes the nineties pop-rock vibes of Weezer or the Pixies, closing the album with grunge-infused guitars and grinding rhythms.

There were elements of the passion and fervour present throughout ‘The Ends’ exhibited by The OBGMs in their EP and self-titled first full-length release, however, this album is altogether more cohesive than the band’s debut. The astute lyricism, infectious beats, powerful riffs and tight production make it impossible to sit still throughout this bold and confident offering from Canadian shores.

ELLIE ODURNY

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