So maybe by this point we should keep our antennas up and expect to receive more than one album a year. Well, at least 2-3 for Guided By Voices. One would think the band would at some point slow things down but for GBV, I suppose 2-3 releases a year is taking it slower considering its past efforts. The band has just released its Welshpool Frillies (GBV Inc. Records) and if you know the band, it’s filled with clever melodies, sprawling guitars, and captivating songs. If you’re unfamiliar with Guided By Voices, you probably have no excuse but just know the album is full of clever melodies, sprawling guitars, and well, captivating songs. What sets the band apart is vocalist/songwriter Robert Pollard’s interesting lyricism and his ability to weave notes together to create magnificently alluring tunes. He’s done it every time, and it’s no different here. I’ve lost count of the number of albums but I’m sure the count has easily surpassed 35. Welshpool Frillies isn’t in your face but it does slowly work its way in. At some point, we have to as the question: Is Guided By Voices one of the greatest bands in rock history? The answer is an obvious one: YES.
Oh. Norfolk, VA band Demons is unrelenting. While yes, sometimes albums do sometimes get lost in the shuffle, Under The Western Heel (Knife Hits) fortunately finds its way here. I do remember encountering the band’s last outing with the Swallow EP which was played consistently, but now the band has compiled all of its aggression into the new album. Throughout the album, it sounds like the band has been playing in the sludge that’s emerged out of the waterways of New York and New Jersey, and that isn’t hyperbole. It’s as if the band members dipped their instruments in all that nastiness to deliver eight songs fully emersed in chaos, anger and um, more chaos. The standout “Holy (My Body, Broken For You)” is a clear example of what the band has to offer but there’s a lot more within, you just have to look for the speed and howling vocals. Fuck yes!
OXBOW – LOVE’S HOLIDAY
We’ve been through this before and feelings are sometimes toyed with. But when a group returns from a brief hiatus – in this case 6 years since its last release – we all need to welcome them in with open arms. With a career spanning over 30 years of releases, the definitive Oxbow, bassist Dan Adams, drummer Greg Davis, singer Eugene S. Robinson, and guitarist Niko Wenner return for another go around within this musical matrix of sound.
The band has just released its eighth full-length release, which might just be its most challenging to date. Scratch that, it just might be Oxbow’s most evolved and eloquent release that takes a different approach. While guitars, distortion, and noise are still inherently thrown within the mix, the band’s Love’s Holiday (Ipecac) takes steps to remember its past but marks a new direction for its future. As guitars rage on, the band is probably at its most melodious, as it’s covered in hard and abrasive edges. While “Dead Ahead” offers thrusting rhythms as guitars scrape on glass, the chorus shifts and smooths the roughness with atmospheric vocals and catchy melodies. The band shifts back and forth but holds tightly to identifiably remain Oxbow. This is the way the band, or any other band for that matter, should kick things off. By the time the track comes to its inevitable and its eventual conclusion, you’ll be smitten.
We can’t be sure where the band is maneuvering to but it becomes clear the sonic bliss they’ve found comfort in, has opened a doorway to a world filled with scattering showers of melody coupled with clanging metal shattered to a hundred pieces. This is what emanates from “Icy White & Crystalline,” as Wenner’s guitar is accentuated by Davis & Adam’s rhythm. While the band’s delivery is visceral, it’s augmented by Robinson’s howling prose. But no sooner that is starts, it seems to be over in the blink of an eye, in comparison to “Lovely Murk,” a stormy number, unmuted in its elegance, which forces words like ‘deliberately atmospheric,’ ‘sorrowful,’ and ‘melancholic.’ Here is where the beauty of Oxbow is most realized as Robinson circles his voice around the instrumentation and is augmented by haunting background vocals of Lingua Ignota. Robinson’s voice hovers in clouds, scattered by keyboards and thick rhythms, losing yourself, your mind, and your very soul within. While this just might be the pinnacle of what the band has to offer throughout Love’s Holiday, there’s so much more to be explored.
The tense “1000 Hours,” featuring Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish, Beck) which is filled with sullen melancholia. The Robinson’s words cut with razor-sharp precision as the rest of the band wrap their instruments around his lyrics, capturing the emotions perfectly. While Oxbow doesn’t quite relinquish its heavy-handed fondness for dissonance and noise, things are different and “The Night The Room Started Burning” is a clear indication this isn’t experimenting for experimentation’s sake, but a chance to showcase another side of Oxbow. What starts off with acoustic guitars, slowly crescendos into something much more orchestrated and ethereal with Robinson’s voice layered over it as backing vocals beg to be unleashed. Guitars offer melodies that are passion-filled and we’re left with the passion before us. There’s so much depth throughout Love’s Holiday, a mysteriously diverse release that has me pulling at comparisons once I listen to “Gunwale.” I hear something different through the scattering guitars and slow-burning rhythm, but we can’t label the group as something else. It’s majestic, sharp, and ghostly.
Through Love’s Holiday, Oxbow has proven itself to be both cerebral and cathartic at the same time but also allowing the emotion to take hold as to fully explore the band’s potential and beauty. Oxbow has turned a corner and is literally on some next-level shit.