By now, the 1990s band reunion is so commonplace it’s cliché, but San Diego’s Drive Like Jehu and Olympia’s Unwound are notable holdouts.
Their respective head honchos, Rick Froberg and Justin Trosper (pictured, far right), are too busy looking ahead to romanticize the past, and their newish projects — Froberg’s Obits, and Trosper’s Survival Knife — joined forces Friday at Neumos for a display of aggressive, airtight rock’n’roll, hold the nostalgia.
Several parallels exist between the bands.
Each is a four-piece comprising veteran musicians, without a weak link in the bunch. Each features a frontman who still yells with conviction, middle age be damned. And for much of both groups’ sets, the bandleaders stepped aside to spotlight their collaborators’ talents.
Although 2013’s “Bed & Bugs” is the artsiest of Obits’ three albums for Seattle’s Sub Pop label, the Brooklyn-based quartet’s performance was all about straight-ahead hooks and dual-guitar action.
Recorded, Froberg’s vocal delivery is anxious, even cranky, but live, the wiry singer-guitarist emitted a carefree confidence, his salt-and-pepper mop failing to conceal a toothy grin.
His six-string foil, Sohrab Habibion, at stage left, exacted surgical control over his red Stratocaster throughout a fast-moving hour of songs that spanned the band’s brief career and spared the audience any self-reverence.
Survival Knife — which, in addition to Trosper, includes original Unwound member Brandt Sandeno on guitar — is rougher around the edges, having yet to issue a full-length.
Its recent pair of seven-inch singles — “Traces of Me,” on Sub Pop, and “Divine Mob,” for Portland’s Kill Rock Stars — is angular and succinct, with ‘80s British heavy-metal overtones.
Those tracks were played Friday, but the set’s highlight was its closer, a longer, unreleased number that matched steady-handed punk riffs to progressive-rock key shifts and complex rhythms from husband-and-wife Kris (drums) and Meg Cunningham (bass).
While Obits and Survival Knife certainly exude seen-it-all cool, the fact Froberg and Trosper have chosen this route over the lucrative temptation of coasting on their legacies isn’t just admirable — in many ways, it’s more interesting.
Live, both bands flat-out rocked, and though the room wasn’t packed — about half-full — attendees were focused and mature, neither waving iPhones nor feebly requesting old songs.