“That’s my scene – musicians,” replied Obnox frontman Lamont Thomas during a Pitchfork interview at the onset of 2015. During that same chat, the Cleveland-native dropped some insights on Wiglet, which he was just wrapping at the time – “It is my best record. It is about real shit. It’s dark and angry, but it is still somehow catchy and jubilant too.” With a prolific release schedule, those words carried extra weight. Having spent nearly two decades in the garage rock underground, Thomas has become a pivotal figure in the community from L.A. to New York City, let alone the small tribe that keeps post-punk and noise alive in Cleveland clubs like Mahall’s and Now That’s Class. The evolution within Wiglet reflects the shifting nature of Cleveland itself.

Less than a year away from hosting the Republic National Convention, Cleveland is amidst a major rebuilding and rebranding period. While the massive chandelier in Public Square and new downtown infrastructure are a welcome sight to both international and domestic visitors, the ongoing proceedings following the police shooting of Tamir Rice highlights the racial strife that still plagues large portions of the region (primarily its East Side). As a 40-something black man within a culture dominated by Caucasians, Thomas offers a unique perspective on the underbelly of American society. Like the educators and community leaders that Thomas associates with, his goal is to turn these brutal truths and personal anger into a means for change. “See Me” highlights the positivity that exists within the incendiary environment. The single is still controlled by garage rock dissonance, but beneath that noise are the uplifting melodies of ’70s psychedelic surf rock, an infections aesthetic that bleeds into the fuzzy harmonies of “Burning Sage” and “Probability.”

Given the profound messages that exist within the album, it is often frustratingly difficult to understand the context layered deep beneath the reverb and other turbulent affects. Similar to Death Grips, this might manifest itself in just a single repetitive line that reinforces the incomprehensible verses. That’s the case during post-hardcore “Baby When I Roll Up.” So often, the “catchiest” elements are buried deep beneath the instrumental angst. It’s too easy to toss the vocals aside during “Infinite Trash” out of sheer frustration. But for those that remain through the madness, there is a true intimacy (and clarity) that finally builds during “Jailhouse Blues.” At that moment, Lamont asserts himself as a loving and compassionate guide and mentor for activists just now jumping into the fray.

Entrenched within a community of musicians, little within Wiglet is easily digestible. This is a challenge. A challenge for individuals to look past the façade of popular culture (read: Cleveland gentrification) and embrace the realities that continue to constrict the betterment of this great nation. While Thomas might not be on the frontlines of public demonstrations, he pens his music in the hopes of stirring the emotions of those individuals that are. Revolution needs some level of sacrifice from all, and by expanding his artistic language, the net of inspiration only grows. When the forces that be want to force groups apart and reduce their collective power, it’s forces like Obnox that amplify the undercurrents needed for societal shifts.

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