GRATEFULLY GORED

Oxes
Label: Monitor
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Oxes

The ongoing recorded evolution of reigning smartass kings Oxes makes it more and more difficult to separate the smart from the ass. Complete genius or utter bullshit? Who cares anymore? The new Oxes EP continues the trio's streak of sublimely stupid-funny cover artwork – guitarist Marc Miller and drummer Chris Freeland as upstanding, red-blooded Americans on the front, guitarist Nat Fowler as an American getting snookered in cards by an Italian on the back – that threatens to overshadow the music contained therein. Especially when the five new tracks are unnamed jolts that range from just over two-minute blasts to a three-act, seven-minute epic.

The third track is the most chaotic ruckus in the trio's arsenal, a four-minute mess of pointless racket that mysteriously gels into spasmodic headbanging on the Pavlovian cue of Freeland's high-hat hitting. It's a song that sounds like Oxes scathingly mocking their very practice of shapeless nonsense bleeding into goose-step power chords – and the pseudo-free-jazz guitar wonkery only adds to that suspicion. The fourth track has Oxes mining the sustaining feedback and trudging sludge of Sleep and grafting – gasp – a sarcastically pretty, pealing guitar solo onto it, milking something triumphant out of it, making something akin to a 800-pound walrus with dragonfly wings wearing a Superman T-shirt. The last track on the EP finds the band coursing through a repetitive riff from which elements are slowly stripped away until all that's left is an electrified beat skeleton.

The first track is the most disarming of the bunch, a seven-minute ride as pompously grandiose as you'd expect from a band so sincerely insincere, but as the track rumbles along its cheeky way, the snarkiness gets flattened and eventually blacksmithed into stiletto-sharp surges, Fowler and Miller's guitars trading contrapuntal jabs over Freeland's spacious hitting. Expecting the unexpected is Oxes' go-to move, but orchestrating something damn near moving is the last thing anybody ever anticipated from these three chaps.

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