Electoral College Rock: Tilden Defeats Hayes?


Fat Bobby—who is not, in matter of fact, fat—of Brooklyn hard rockers Oneida writes that “Power Animals,” from his band’s latest, Come On Everybody Let’s Rock, is “a disillusioned commentary on the electoral hornswogglin’ of the 1876 Hayes/Tilden fiasco,” which, he insists brightly, makes it uniquely apropos to our current time stream. And golly if it isn’t just as the man says. But now that I’ve worked through the tangential gimmick (good effort, guys), it’s time to address Oneida’s sound.

Enemy Hogs, the first Oneida CD, was decently incomprehensible and immediately branded “art” by publications read mostly by the British. But these days I’d be willing to bet a sawbuck that if copies of Edgar Broughton’s Sing Brother Sing or Alice Cooper’s Pretties for You were mailed incognito to the same press, those would be judged in an identical manner. So, chalk up the confusion between art noise and rock action to untreated brain flukes (or poorly managed ebullience over the wearing of miniskirts) edging issues like making sure the guitars and vocals are mixed semi-intelligibly, and you have one potential explanation as to why Let’s Rock sounds like a very different band. (NB: An intervening Steel Rod EP was not to be missed, either, by virtue of an unmarked but totally crushing organ-and-guitar jam.) The other possibility, of course, is that it’s all a joke too finely wrought for me to understand.

Anyway, on the new disc, “Major Havoc” struts out of the speakers, making like a brassy horn chart then finishing with a cornball arena-rock coda that you know Oneida just loved to play. Later, singer Papa Crazy gets as unfastened about “doing business in Japan signing contracts that [he] don’t understand” as Roky Erickson used to after working in the Kremlin with two-headed dogs. “Fat Bobby’s Black Thumb” and “Legion of Scabs” are redneck-ready, probably even more so when accompanied by a roomful of wimmen and fatty livers. So if I had discovered Come On Everybody Let’s Rock 28 years ago, I’d have been as pleased as the day I purchased the Pink Fairies’ Never Never Land at Pomeroy’s.

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