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Sit & Spin

Secret Wars


All drone and repetition and tricky time changes, Oneida go by the names Kid Millions, (Fat) Bobby Matador, and Hanoi (Baby) Jane. They are three guys, pretty normal looking, no spiked hair or jean jackets or trucker caps. They say the pseudonyms help them to rock out better, and to get in character. They allow the band to shed the ego that often comes with a person's given name, the band has said in interviews.

You know that sort of bass-heavy, fuzzy report you get from hearing your neighbor's music through apartment walls? That's Oneida. A sort of pysch-indie version of Can, Oneida get a lot of their sneer from Matador, who once said that the problem with avant-garde music is that it's never loud enough. This is a man -- this is a band -- that can play the same riff over and over for 14 minutes, and for some reason you end up seeing it not as a massive No-Doz but rather a profound statement on the definition of music. How can so few notes say so much?

It's minimalism, and Dada, and over-educated, undernourished college rock sneer all bundled up in one handy package. It's still hard as hell to place, however. It rocks, but not hard enough to please fans of that kind of thing. It's repetitive and stoner-sounding, but herky-jerky enough to be a buzzkill. Lyrically it sounds pretty cool, but good luck trying to figure out just what the hell it is they're actually saying.

Secret Wars was originally intended to be an EP -- the band's favorite musical form -- but whilst recording, the songs supposedly spoke to Fat Bobby and Co., demanding that they be allowed to express themselves in their complete form. Which, just so you know, includes things like Balinese gongs and other non-traditional rock instruments. Seeing them, one's not sure if they they're bad-ass musicians or not worth a shit, which is always a good thing.

Ultimately, the answer to that question probably lies in the prejudices of the listener, anyway: one man's "droning and repetitive" is another man's "hypnotic." You have to want to be hypnotized for it to actually work, after all.

Track to burn: "Caesar's Column"
Grade: B+--Timothy C. Davis

Punk Rock

Quarterstick Records

Punk Rock is a visceral record peeking back at the Mekons' late 70s punk roots in a manner consistent with nearly thirty years of disdain for musical trends. The history of the Mekons is not only rooted in punk ethos; various members have also surfaced in solo projects and outfits, namely The Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts and the Sadies.

This record is a mix of live and studio tracks, most written in the band's early days and recorded recently for posterity. "This Sporting Life," a tune Beatles-esque in its psychedelic design, is deconstructed in typical Mekons' fashion.

"Work All Week" qualifies as a reggae track, while "Never Been In A Riot," a drunken sing-a-long clocking in at 1:08, could be straight out of the band's punk scrapbook. "Chopper Squad" is a spooky track on banjo, accented with sparse sounds. There's even a live outing called "Fight the Cuts," where a Canadian Mekons' cover band accompanies the real thing! Other tracks showcase their eclectic tastes with non-punk instruments, namely saz, mbira and shruti box. The longest and surprisingly introspective track is "Lonely and Wet," where the band puts all its emotions and dissonance into one 6-minute-long basket.

Punk Rock may not be a proper studio record, and granted the Mekons' marketable prime has passed (as if they ever cared for such trivial things), but with records like this, history repeating itself is a positive thing.

Track to burn: "Never Been In A Riot"
Grade: B+--Samir Shukla

Loch Lomond
When We Were Mountains

In Music We Trust

Loch Lomond's debut began life as a side project for a few members of the former Portland, OR, indie band, The Standard, but blossomed into a lush, rustic and melancholic obsession over the course of 2003; don't be surprised to see it on a few 2004 year-end best lists.

Ritchie Young and Rob Oberdorfer switched coasts last year and wound up in NYC, collaborating on Young's demos. But they soon realized they could flesh the songs out and possibly come up with something special. They did, after roping in a couple of key Portland performers, most notably Kate O'Brien of Iretsu.

The result sounds like a musical alchemist's dream concoction, and is a quantum leap beyond The Standard's comparably standard fare. ...Mountains is all over the map: snail-paced Low, vintage Cure (courtesy of Tim Putnam's best Robert Smith), Pinetop 7 goth country (via O'Brien's fiddle), Stephen Meritt-like lyricism, synth layers ala Portishead, Nick Drake acoustic touches, the quay-side folktales of Frenchie George Brassens, Scottish aires... It's a hodge-podge of eras and styles cut-and-pasted together into a magnificent whole conjuring up images of space-like voids ("Canadian Shield") and pastoral Scottish panoramas ("The Mountain") from one song to the next, keeping the listener happily entranced throughout.

Track to burn: "The Mountain"
Grade: A---John Schacht

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