More than anything else, Memphis’ Oblivians are gonna be remembered for fostering a scene. Yeah, there’re some scattershot hits shuffled into the group’s discography, which now comprises four proper studio albums, a handful of low-run curios and some singles. Its latest, “Desperation,” comes off as a more lushly conceived melodic affair than in the past—one on which the spirit of the band’s beneficiaries comes to bear. There’s still an indecipherable amount of distortion on just about every note the dual-guitar act offers, and that Bo Diddley beat remains an important part of the trio’s approach, a cover of the Stones’ “Loving Cup” being an early-album example. “Call the Police” sounds like a rock ‘n’ roll song from Memphis should: Organ dominates the track as the band reels back and shoots off some easy three-chord jam. All of “Desperation” swings, and at some points recalls the group’s album accompanying Mr. Quintron. Newcomers aren’t going to find revelations, though. When these guys showed up amid the 1990s detritus of Seattle fallout, it was a significant thing—and something that enabled people like Jay Reatard to develop from snot-nosed punk geek to a singular songwriter. Reatard and the stable of bands associated with Goner Records, a shop and label Oblivians Eric Friedl founded, is bound to leave a mark as broad and wide as the trio’s recordings. There’s a lineage of bands following from that hot Tennessee city—the most southwestern point in the state. So, while the White Stripes and their well-known contemporaries took a recycled blueprint and turned it in to dough, the Oblivians continued contributing to a scene, helping it prosper and mature. None of this makes the latest crop of garage acts obsolete, but definitely less important. (Dave Cantor)
July 13 at Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600. 9:30pm. $14.