Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Observers-Walk Alone EP (2004)

"It was midday and Eric was trying to remember how to get out of bed. At this point in time no one seemed to care whether he was human garbage or not, and it was just killing him."-Richard Price, Lush Life

I first heard the Observers when they played Chicago's Ice Factory back in 2005 with Clorox Girls, on the "So What's Left Now?" LP release tour. Even if they hadn't dropped that LP, this three-song EP would still cement The Observers' place as one of the best punk bands of the '00s for those who never got a chance to see them. From the twinkling guitar notes that open "Walk Alone" to the squalling instrumental mess that closes out "Slipping Away," there's not a flat moment or fake sentiment on this thing.

Musically, the Observers were one of the only bands of the period talented enough (i.e., they were song-writers as well as simple instrumentalists) to move beyond crude Wipers worship and develop the Greg Sage-inflected guitar sound in an original direction. The heavy bass lines, tucked away just behind the guitar on this EP, catch my ear now in a way they didn't when I first bought this EP back in 2007. But it's the guitar, for sure, that takes pride of place here:  in lockstep with the rhythm section, it sets the pace and shines, snaps, and cracks through the mix like a time-keeping whip.They're one of the only contemporary punk bands that have gotten compared to The Adverts, and that's apt: like Gaye and co., The Observers' songs always hovered on the edge of dissolving into arrhythmic chaos, and were all the better for it.

There are two basic schools of listening: those who give a shit about lyrics and words, and those who don't. Hyper-textual loser that I am, I've always been firmly in the former camp. I'm also a cynical, cranky old bastard on the best of days, so this EP quite accurately reflects my typical state of mind. To my mind, Doug wrote some of the best lyrics of recent years (and continues to do so, for the Red Dons ). "Walk Alone" is a succinct account of urban anomie and isolation: "walk these streets where I'm a stranger, seeking out new directions/lost and found..." As the chorus swells, the grinding frustration of wanting something different than the misery you're stuck in, but having no clue how to get that something different, bursts out: "Fear's what I've found/I'm in over my head/....I just want something different than what I'm feeling right now..." It's that line that's stuck with me since I first got this EP.

 "The Void" stands out because of the chanted vocals, while "Slipping Away" really displays the Adverts influence: the instruments are mixed in a muddy stew that emphasizes the near-clarity of the choruses. The song dissolves into a frantic, confusing swirl of guitar skronk and violently repetitive drumming. As far as I can tell (no lyric sheet in front of me), the song's about watching your dreams whirl down the drain as you get older: anyone in their mid- to late-twenties is familiar with that sentiment.

The Observers one of the very few bands that I loved when I was 18 that mean more to me as I get older than they did back then.

Anyway, this review is probably too long for those of you who come here for the download links, but The Observers fucking mattered, man. To me, anyway. And this is my blog, so you have to endure my obsessions and neuroses. Deal.

HERE. I think this EP is long out of print, but try dropping Jonny Cat Records a line on their facebook page and find out for yercelf. Four fifths of The Observers now play in Red Dons, a band who deserves your attention and money. They just dropped a new EP, go buy that.

*EDIT, 3.28.14: Re-up'd the file, you can now get it here.*


  1. two years later: very nice review. and the link doesnt work anymore.

  2. @Renata: Thanks. Just re-up'd the file, check the new link.