Oxbow Love That’s Last [CD/DVD]

[Hydra Head; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: avant-garde rock, art-metal, noise
Others: U.S. Maple, the Birthday Party, the Jesus Lizard

I'm surprised these guys have eluded me (and, from what I can tell, most everyone else) for so long. Formed in the late '80s, these guys are a wholly un-hippie Bay Area group centered around dark-as-fuck Birthday Party-style "blues" guitar squall, coupled with towering, menacing, and heavily tattooed man-mountain Eugene Robinson's ear-rending whinnies and wails. Sound good? It is, pretty much.

Love That's Last: A Wholly Hypnographic & Disturbing Work Regarding Oxbow is the complete title of this record, and that should give you a pretty good idea of whom this is targeted at. It's a Hydra Head release of a veteran '80s band that, were they to emerge out of Brooklyn today, would likely command the same audiences as noise knob-twiddlers like Black Dice or Wolf Eyes. Oxbow are a bit different, however — more organic if not more conventional. In watching the DVD, though the sound quality isn't the greatest, we get a glimpse of frontman Robinson's violent proclivities: he pulls an audience member's pants down, and is (apparently) renowned for fighting willing onlookers. Wolf Eyes' music may be confrontational, but huddled behind their gizmos, they're anything but.

The CD portion of this release includes pretty-good selections from the band's discography, cobbled together from their back catalog. "Insylum," from 1996's Serenade in Red, is a slow, swampy stomp, featuring, bizarrely, guest vocals from Marianne Faithfull. "The Valley" is almost folksy, though Robinson's scary/weird howls prevent anything approximating front-porch rocking, and "Glimmer Bird" rides a wave of low-end feedback that recalls Red Red Meat or Califone. No hummin' here, though. The DVD, meanwhile, includes Music for Adults, a tour documentary focusing on the band's European jaunt. Marvel as Robinson strips to his undies on stage, then gasp as he forces a fan to manipulate him before smashing a glass and grabbing another fan in a headlock. Awesome.

If it still needs to be said, Oxbow are a strange piece of work. It's hard to imagine anyone liking this stuff as much as those producing it, but I've got to give them credit: from chops, stage presence, and surrounding miscellanea, they actually sell it.

1. Insylum
2. Is that what Sleep Looks Like
3. Intermezzo Op 20
4. The Valley
5. Glimmer Bird
6. Nocturne Op 20
7. Yoke
8. Pretty Bird
9. Bomb
10. Sunday