You gotta love the fact that the new TRIPLE album from long-serving rhythm-centric psychonauts Oneida is merely the second part of their triptych Thank Your Parents (puh-leeze let the next one be a quintuple-disc affair…).
Ignoring the possible warnings that are the ‘organic versus synthetic’ rhetoric, and the Roger Dean-takes-up-collage artwork, the only thing you really need to know about Rated O is that this is heads down groove-based RAWK. The massive scale of Oneida’s undertaking forces you to experience this as a journey, even if you make yourself a single-disc compilation, or just hear one of the songs passing the seven-minute mark.
Oneida’s Fat Bobby laughs at reviews of the previous album namechecking Goldie's drum & bass odysseys, but you can see where the hapless reviewer was coming from: 'what’s hypnotic, galloping, groove-based, epic… but not quite krautrock or post-rock?' Yes, there's a resemblance to krautrock in the clean, economical guitar lines of some tracks, but never the minimal Dingerbeat, which is replaced, here, with full-kit work-outs that reminds you why the word 'battery' has connotations of drumming, artillery, energy, and violent assault. Think also: Fuck Buttons (for the tight repetitions within each track whether it's 7...10...13 minutes long), but with organs and guitar-lines that are often far more discordant, rather than (secretly) rather sweet beneath the fuzz and feedback.
One of the best tracks across the three discs is ‘10:30 At The Oasis’, actually clocking in at 12:34. It’s a neat variation on the post-rock formula: rather than using a change in key and/or volume to define the dynamics of the song, Oneida focus on tonal changes, and in this case start out with an intricate riff any Eighties metallers would kill for, then (five minutes in) start selectively deteriorating it: subtracting a chord, then notes from the chords, until the two note pulse is replaced with a stark drone. It’s like watching a sprinter shed skin, musculature, and finally shed bones, without breaking stride, just sprinting on femurs and tibias. Down to the essence of rock music…
Inevitably, since this is a three LP beast, you’re bound to get some inexplicable hollering like the loon in the attic. (Is this a legal / contractual requirement? Or is it just what four sweaty men in a windowless room will eventually do?) ‘The Human Factor’ is that track… but it’s also the only one that feels like filler.
Across the 15 songs, you can hear all the ages of Oneida: 'The River' opens with rapid organ riffing over lazy growls of reverbed guitar that explode halfway through; later disc two's 'Saturday' is the most retro sounding: the organ parps almost cheerily, and the guitar soloing verges on eyes-closed & pouting fretwankery, but the looseness of the floor-toms, and the reverbed vocals yelling madly from some distant room , make this one of the more compelling moments. The third disc's almost-but-not-quite-the-title-track, ‘O’, is 13 minutes of sitar-led psychedelia, over churning guitars.
By the end, every significant permutation of organ-guitar-drums seems to have been explored... but it doesn't feel like an exercise in working through them, more like building vast ramparts around their monument to The Oneida Sound. Why Oneida need a concept to rock out for two hours is still a bit of a mystery, but it never tires... if only all shameless self-indulgence sounded this good.
7Alexander Tudor's Score