If you're anything like me, you may be known to frequent certain bars where live music is played at high volume while all sorts of Memphis creeps wiggle and writhe around in between spilling their drinks and annoying whatever unlucky soul is behind the bar. If those things sound like your idea of a good time, then you probably are familiar with Jack Yarber (aka Jack Oblivian), the Memphis wizard who's been kicking out the jams for years in bands like the Oblivians, the Knaughty Knights, the Compulsive Gamblers, and Johnny Vomit and the Dry Heaves, just to name a few. For the better part of the last 15 years or so, Yarber's main gig has been his solo outfit: Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, and most recently, Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks. The Sheiks have their own tale to tell, one full of debauchery, home-studio genius, and enough trips to the Tip Top liquor store to make Harry Dean Stanton blush. But that's another story for a different time.
I recently moved into a new apartment, and, like any self-respecting music journalist, the first thing I set up was my stereo. Rummaging through boxes that were definitely not meant to transport an entire collection of vinyl that I've been collecting over the past 15 years, Jack Oblivian's latest effort, The Lone Ranger of Love, was one of the first albums I pulled out. The needle hit the record. The neighbors didn't complain, or at least not to me.
I was either way too into this record or just too busy trying to be an adult and unpack what little belongings I own, but I listened to the album all weekend long. This is a song-by-song breakdown of what I heard.
"Boy in a Bubble"
The lead-off track for The Lone Ranger of Love sounds a lot like it could have been on the Oblivians' last album, Desperation, which is not a complaint in the slightest. The one-two punk-punch of the Oblivians has always been my favorite aspect of that super group, so to see it represented on this album was a welcome treat. We're off to a good start so far.
This track was actually written by Shawn Cripps, the man behind the band Limes and other projects that get together whenever Cripps has the time or feels inclined. This one is a short yet catchy number, and I'm not positive, but I believe Yarber is singing something about being happy in the grave. Only two songs in and we're already getting dark. Cool by me.
A perfect jam for when your "friends" drag you to that party at 4 a.m. The guitar twang is predicting the impending hangover. This one has a Stones-y vibe, something that the Sheiks probably had something to do with, and once again proving that the matchup of these players is a recipe for success. My favorite song so far.
"Home in My Hand"
After a brief change in pace, the band is back at full speed, complete with Billy Gibson ripping the shit out of the harmonica. I'm still waiting for the filler song; maybe it isn't coming.
Another punk ripper. So far this record is moving far away from the style that my favorite Jack O. song, "Make Your Mind Up," executes so effortlessly. It's now becoming obvious Yarber has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
"Stick to Me"
Maybe the first love song on the record. Catchy and closer to what his previous releases have offered.
Don't go getting sappy on me now, Jack. A pretty polished song compared to the rest of the stuff I've heard so far. End side one.
"Lone Ranger of Love"
Start side two. The Lone Ranger of Love is here, baby. This one almost has some Stax Records guitar work going on. Memphis for the win. Perfectly sleazy.
"La Charra (part one)" & "La Charra" (part two)"
You know that scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Hunter and his lawyer are walking through the bar, and everyone's suddenly a lizard? I don't even remember what song was playing, but I'm going to dig up my VHS copy of that movie, fast forward to that scene, and mute it, and let Graham Winchester sing about big sombreros while Hunter T. slides into the abyss. Creepy in the best way.
"Ride Like the Wind"
The freak factor is real. The soundtrack to walking into a cantina with one thing on your mind — and I'm not talking about tequila. The guitar work on this song is top notch, and the piano playing is great. I feel like my favorite songs on this album are when the sketchiness is full frontal and on display. It's becoming clear that this is not an album you listen to on the way to making a good decision. Better suited for driving down Madison Avenue with the windows down at 3 a.m. while you're with that special someone who hasn't figured out you're a scumbag yet.
"Runnin From the Law"
This one was written by Gene Nitz, but since Yarber kills it, who's keeping score? The party's over, but it's one of those good feelings, like when you refused that last shot of tequila, so there's a good chance you'll remember parts of the night.
Well done, boys. I find it very hard to believe a local artist tops this record in 2016. Might as well flip this sucker over and start again.
Lone Ranger of Love is available now.