Obnox - Niggative Approach - New LP
‘Niggative Approach’ — a knowing nod to Ann Arbor’s other N.A. (with an opening cameo from John Brannon) is the 7th album in Bim’s astonishing unbeaten streak that began with 2011’s ‘I’m Bleeding Now’ and shows no immediate sign of ending. While Thomas’ past genre-defying works have brazenly taken a torch to such record store bin cards as “punk”, “psych”, “hip hop”, “funk”, “new arrivals” and “MISC. O”, ‘Niggative Approach’ is his most bold, fully realized statement to date. There’s no one in what’s left of the underground with a sharper take on the ties that bind these genres, and no eyewitness to the nation-going-to-shit as quick to stand up and throw down than Obnox. If you wanna settle for half steps, by all means, be our guest, but ’Niggative Approach’ shouldn’t merely challenge you to imagine the possibilities, but maybe even get your hands dirty in making them happen.
They’ve all been bold expressions of his wide vision. But his third, 2014’s Louder Space, was a true breakthrough. The hip-hop and R&B strains that course beneath his noisy one-man garage rock came into sharper focus on that record, his first made in a proper studio. It also showed that Thomas could delve deeper into specific sides of his persona—in this case, by crafting legit rap jams—without sacrificing the many styles of which he’s capable. The three Obnox albums that Thomas made after Louder Spacewere solid and diverse, but *Niggative Approach feels like its true spiritual follow-up. The album is heavily focused on beats—Thomas has drummed in many vital Cleveland post-punk outfits—and filled with earworm-ready grooves. If Louder Space was his hip-hop album, Niggative Approach is his funk platter, bubbling with big bass lines and filled with studio touches like horn sections and keyboard accents. There’s still a lot of punk spirit here; the album’s title nods to hardcore legends Negative Approach, whose singer John Brannon opens and closes the album with spoken exhortations to Thomas. But Niggative Approach is first and foremost about groove. Many of Thomas’s grooves are so simple and powerful they feel instantly classic, as if he plucked them from some hidden vault of magic funk tricks. They also help create some of the most upbeat music he’s ever made. After Brannon’s brief invocation, *Niggative Approach *opens with three tracks ripe for blasting from car windows while cruising down beachside strips. “Hardcore Matinee” is positively bouncy, while “Jack Herer” sounds like a dream take on Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead." “State to State” soars on a funky guitar line, chiming keyboard chords, and Thomas’s multi-voiced hums. Things even get romantic during “Carmen, I Love You,” a groove-ballad that Thomas could’ve sung while lying on the grass staring at clouds.
Genre bending at its finest. Lamont Thomas, the one-man band that is Obnox, creates a deep, heady stew of noise, punk, funk, hip-hop, and R&B that is somehow polished as much as it is complete chaos. The album opens with a sample from Negative Approach’s John Brannon—hence the play on the album title and song title—and slowly, song by song, steeps into a deep trance of thick bass, a spattering of horns, keyboard synth, and Parliament-esque funk. It’s punk yet also completely not punk, and it’s dumbfounding how seamlessly lines get blurred. This particular album continues Thomas’s evolution into broad, spacey territory that is undeniably diverse. It can speak to many different audiences, and it’s totally enthralling. -- Razorcake