CD Reviews

ONEIDA, Come On Everybody Let's Rock (Jagjaguwar) Rock was meant to be higher than Godzilla's package. Of this, Oneida are well aware. As elegantly wasted as Michael Hutchence—you know, before he died jerking off—this New York band are out to put the shake back in rock and roll's hands (and ass) on their latest. And while coke chic has become terminally redundant in rock—rendering a track like "Snow Machine" with its chants of "Cokey cokey cokey up my nose, nose, nose" as dated as Nipsey Russell's wardrobe—the fact that bed wetters like Creed have turned "getting high" into a damn spiritual mantra makes a band who reassert the glory of dope strangely necessary. It's not just their vision that Oneida are out to blur though, but the very form of rock itself. The band revel in rock clich鳠at the same time they deconstruct them, paying lip service to the towering artifice of rock built on the backs of idols the Who, Crazy Horse, and Creedence, while undermining its foundations with paint-peeling, screeching feedback and fractured songcraft. "I Love Rock" is a yowling distorted freak-out that burns synapses like the boys do buds; "Doin' Business in Japan" is buoyed by a scabrous bass line thicker than Della Reese's thighs; the baked boogie of "Legion of Scabs" is a trip on the same magic carpet ride as John Kay. It all congeals into a stunning album on which

Oneida show as little regard for the bounds of rock as they do for their livers.—Jason Bracelin

IDYLL SWORDS, II (Communion) In certain musical circles, John Fahey's Zen, follow-your-own-path guitar work isn't only revered, it's worshiped. This appreciation for flowery (and sometimes menacing) acoustic composition leads to albums like Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing and Idyll Swords' first and now second discs. This North Carolina guitar trio notably feature ex-members of Polvo (Dave Brylawski) and Spatula (Chuck Johnson), though their rock backgrounds figure in only tangentially. Both guitarists and another, Grant Tennille, pick early Fahey-style figures that corkscrew and pli鬠occasionally locking into grooves and conjuring a Western, country-like feel, as on the surging "A Bridge to a Bridge" (with Tennille singing minimalist, pastoral lyrics). But what boosts this album above the guys-with-guitars limitation is its multicultural bent. Middle Eastern and Asian instruments such as tamburas, sitars, and ouds provide a percussive element beyond the reverberating strings, and widen the scope enough to convey ethereal explorations ("Moab [Arches]") and plaintive, almost ceremonial romps ("The Mezereon Dynasty"). What makes this album so accessible—to those who appreciate acoustic instrumental music, at least—is the genuine care that goes into each song. There's a light, playful mood overall; despite technically flawless performances, Idyll Swords never sound stiff.—Richard A. Martin

NORMAN HEDMAN'S TROPIQUE, Taken by Surprise (Palmetto) Latin percussionist and bandleader Norman Hedman has an impressive r鳵m鬠one that's taken him off the beaten path from stints with jazzman Chico Freeman and soulsters Main Ingredient to sessions for Des'ree and others. But this outing with his own ensemble is a decidedly middle-of-the-road affair of post-bop jazz. The melodies are comfortable, although never especially memorable, and the Latin moments are few and far between (a shame, since on the occasions when a Brazilian ax頲hythm turns up, there's a fresh spice and crispness to the material). Everyone gets a chance to blow, with Roger Byam's sax work a true joy—as opposed to Craig Rivers' screeching flute—but only the solo cut, "The Message," gives any real indication of Hedman's instrumental prowess. That's not too surprising, given that Hedman's influences include Cal Tjader, whose sense of adventure was limited. At times, Taken by Surprise does rise above the average, as on the delicate "Just for Ruby," Hedman's tribute to his mother, but no one gets excited or carried away. Even "Light at the End of the Tunnel," which opens promisingly, turns into jazz-funk lite, making it typical of a record that might as well have had "Play during drive time" plastered on the cover.—Chris Nickson

JIM GREER, The Big Thieves Jail the Little Thieves (Fortune) Inconspicuous acoustic folk musings give in to beat-happy trots through Luscious Jackson's neighborhood. Ambient, textural humming swells into an intentionally corny mishmash of strings and chugging, palm-muted guitars. Yeah, Jim Greer's stuff is all over the map, and his loungy, fluttery voice and concentric lyrics never key us in to what the hell is really going on. But who needs a compass all the time? These songs have a fresh-from-the-bedroom authenticity; the central melodies are potent enough that any ancillary noise doesn't sound as if it's straining to be eclectic. My only beef is when Greer's most sincere-sounding lyrics (in "Just a Young Man" he croons of a deceased friend named Joe, "He was just a young man/and I could see the goodness tremble in his eye") flounder in campy, undernourished arrangements. He fares much better on the lush album openers "Perfect Trees" and "In the Nightfall," in which the subdued mood is enough of an anchor that we follow his meanderings by choice. Big Thieves has the unmistakable imprint of a man creating highly individualized, uncompromised music that makes us better people for occasionally scratching our heads at it.—Andrew Bonazelli

 
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