, July 10th, 2009 10:20
My old man and modern music never really saw eye to eye. To him, it was series of shrieks, howls, pounding drums and a never-ending squall that sought to irritate the hell of out of him. Upon hearing The Birthday Party, his only response was to shake his said sadly as he questioned his decision to procreate. Which is not surprising really. As a nine-year-old in eastern Poland in the September of 1939, the Soviet NKVD gave him and his family just three hours to pack up their essentials before being herded on a packed cattle truck and shipped off to Siberia as part of Stalin's ethnic cleansing programme. Little wonder then that it was only really "Gentleman" Jim Reeves that seemed to placate the noises that went on his head.
It's worth mentioning because Oneida's triple CD Rated O is the second instalment of their 'Thank Your Parents' trilogy. A bold move, to be sure, the Brooklyn quartet have taken on the much-maligned template of prog and given it a 21st century update that stretches the imagination of both band and listener. Moreover, Oneida display a daring creativity that ensures that Rated O is far more than a straightforward passive experience. This is music that provokes and challenges and the rewards are handsomely rich.
Each of the discs contained herein offer a different aural facet to the group. On the first, Oneida push the envelope through a series of neo-dub and electro workouts that are far from the beaten track. 'Brownout In Lagos' is the uncompromising opener. Powered by a percussion that takes centre-stage, this is a conceit that's at once exhilarating and overwhelming, with reference points that are almost impossible to pin down as it stomps around its own field of one. Yet nothing really prepares you for the onslaught that is 'The Human Factor'. A soundtrack to these fucked up and desperate times, this is a primal howl of utter anguish that says more than words ever can.
The second disc is the closest that you'll find to something resembling accepted wisdom. A compression of ideas of sorts, the compact nature of the tracks find Oneida not so much blasting off into the furthest reaches of the cosmos as offering a consolidation of conceits and statements and the results are series of tightly rolled musical vignettes. 'Saturday' grooves with an almost relentless intensity that blends mutoid funk with unrestrained feedback and mind-melting noises while elsewhere, 'I Will Haunt You' takes the conventions of classic rock into a dark alley for a savage beating before beating its chest in triumph.
But it's the third disc that truly satisfies. Taking their cues from the kosmische experiments of the 70s, Oneida flex their muscles, spread their wings and take flight into uncharted territory. Delivering the very definition of "epic", the 20-minute journey that is 'Folk Wisdom' engages, hypnotises and delivers. Refusing to bow down or relent, the effect can be disorientating but, crucially, never boring. This is precisely what music in the 21st century should be sounding like, the aural equivalent of the silver suits and food pills that we should be wearing and consuming by now.
Oneida is a band that is being propelled in an ever-forward motion at such speed and velocity that looking back is less an option and more of an impossibility. The knowledge that there is still another instalment to arrive is enough to trigger a Pavlovian response of anticipatory salivation. As for my old man? Well, he'd have hated this with a vengeance and frankly, there can be no higher recommendation.