obnox - bang messiah - smog veil
AT RADIO NOW
TRY: #8, #10, #6
FCC: #1, #2, #4, #7, #9
"... there is a blending of punk and hip-hop but it is more than that, there are also echoes of psychedelic rock and soul."
"These are songs that demand attention, but they also reward those willing to peel back the curtain of fuzz and discover the layers of melodies beneath."
- Consequence of Sound
"...this one lives at the eyeball-destroying intersection of needle-ripping blues and sludgy garage-punk."
Lamont “Bim” Thomas is on the move. The good times of the local show the Cleveland musician played last night bled into the early hours of the morning, and he’s a little tired as he waits for a cab to take him back to his car so he can get on with the busy day ahead. Though he’s on the brink of releasing Bang Messiah, the 13th full-length of his shape-shifting, genre-smashing project Obnox, he’s already heading into the studio again for another recording session. By any measure the man is prolific.
The music he plays is from the future, though he weaves in sounds that will remind fans of the past. Each of his albums, including Bang Messiah, have a similar effect to turning on an analog FM radio, and slowly twisting the knob back and forth across the dial—though when it comes to the music, nothing about Obnox is a throwback. If anything, Thomas represents a continuation of the Rust Belt’s most revolutionary underground traditions. “I just want to be uttered in the same breath as Pere Ubu, or Electric Eels, or Iggy Pop,” he says. “I don't want to be the late 1990s guy or the early 2000s guy. I want to be considered one of the heaviest motherfuckers to ever play in the Midwest, for my era and generation.”
Thomas, who’s now in his mid-40s, was born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio where he came up on the music of skateboarding culture, his family’s church, and a mix of underground sounds—especially those from his home state and urban centers throughout the Midwest. Picking up the drums in high school, he spent the better part of the '90s and '00s playing in groups such as Bassholes, Flipping Hades, Puffy Areolas, This Moment in Black History, and collaborating with dozens of fellow musicians including Smog Veil label mates like X___X for whom he filled in on drums for recent tour dates and Pere Ubu who have taken Obnox out as tour support.
Though his bands have trafficked in disparate sounds, spanning punk, psychedelic, soul, and more, they’re similar in their hard-driving, DIY ethos and aversion to doing anything for the sake of trend or popularity. “I'm pretty much over any particular scene or movement or garage, or punk, or hardcore, or whatever,” Thomas says as he starts his car and begins driving toward the studio today to lay down some new tracks. “Fuck all of that. If it's doing what you wanna do, if it's doing what people are unwilling to do, then that's punk. And that's my world.”
Starting with his 2011 debut, I’m Bleeding Now (Smog Veil), in Obnox, Thomas has created the ultimate vehicle to open up and invite others into his world (or at least his taste in music). There are no holds barred in his exploration and execution of sounds; and while some folks might not “get it” at first listen, anyone with an open mind and a passion for rebellious music will find plenty to grab on to. He might dip into funk one moment, noise rock the next, and follow that with hip-hop, psychedelic, power-pop, or something completely out of left field, and seamlessly bend and squeeze it all together into a hypnotic brew. For some musicians, this sort of craftsmanship is calculated or over thought, but for Thomas it’s natural and organic. “It's just my regular get down. I don't even trip off of it,” he says. “I'm basically like, ‘let the black folks have rock 'n' roll back,’ and let's make it exciting again. Because a lot of dudes are just doing the fucking same thing on records I would consider overrated. It's all recycled and regurgitated, and nobody's willing to take a risk.”
Thomas describes Bang Messiah, which he recorded in five days with longtime compatriot Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, as his attempt to make a big pop album under a bootstrap schedule and budget. Its sounds and textures are bold, and often sparkle more brightly than the ecstatic, noisy haze of his previous material, but true to form, it’s hardly “pop” as far as pop means mainstream and conventional. The first lyrics uttered on opening track “Steve Albini Thinks We Suck” are a defiant rap, “I don’t give a fuck,” which sets the stage that what you’re about to hear is the real deal and not a rock ‘n’ roll simulation.
Thomas insists he’s not an activist, but his music is an expression of freedom as well as a reaction against current culture where people often spend more time curating versions of their lives for their social media followers than actually living. He’s still musing on this as he arrives at the studio, ready to get to work. “Who's using the internet for good?,” he asks. "Why do we need to know all of this shit about everybody? Show me what you've really got. Do something. Make something. Say something. Say something real. In real life. In real time. Then hell yeah, I'm all for it. The Universe only has a certain amount of energy, and I'm trying at this time in my life to use it for good.”