Portland, Oregon rock band OXCART'S second studio album ‘The Equation’ fuses a flurry of fuzzed-rock with atmospheric soundscapes. The band are Jason ‘the religious zealot’ Baker, Ben ‘the politician’ Carey, Alex ‘the gambler’ and Matt ‘the over compensatory businessman’. If their monikers mean anything, it should be an interesting mix of characters, let alone music.
When Noel Gallagher suggested the Artic Monkeys' moniker meant their chances of success were slim, he was duly proved wrong. You can't help but feel the same with Oxcart, not the most compelling band name. However, to my pleasant surprise, this diverse quartet shift their direction quicker than a rollercoaster,furiously genre-bending throughout.
Opener ‘Equation’ is a heavy, scratchy spaced-out-rock number, accompanied by a vocal onslaught that sounds like a junior James Hetfield, bolstered with crashing riffs. ‘Wishes’ comes on like Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace gate crashing a studio session with Eagles of Death Metal in tow,heralded by fuzzed out lo-fi production. Shifting tempo with ‘Officer’s’ jazzy opening, and Mark Hutchinson’s savvy sax, backed with crisp snare rhythms throughout, it’s an eclectic mix. Husky vocals then melt into a stairway of piano keys and it ends with a crescendo of hair-metal riffery. It's different but devilishly fantastic, if I may say so.
‘Gambler, Pt.1’ offers dark bellowing rock vocals that flow into the ambling opening riffs of ‘Gambler, Pt.2’. Walkie-talkie scratchy vocals merge into softer, surfy vocals, then before you can say GO! a screamo session begins. Damning the guitar smog, the pattern shifting continues, however and it's all diversely compelling. Baker sings ‘In a world that’s full of fucked up people/All like you they seem evil/ Give my father back his MONEY (screamed)’Courtney Sproule guests on vocals on ‘Gambler’s Lament’ and it's a spiritual interlude full of droning keys, swirling distorted effects. ‘I have nothing left’ sings Jason Baker in this brief, catch-your-breath moment.
‘Desert’ is tape-deck lo-fi, crackling in your ear. Then the sound purifies and ditches the blips when he sings ’I’m gonna start a new life/Start a new life’. Spiralling into a crescendo and a Mark Lanegan-esque vocal overdub. This nine minute voyage of compressed vocals sounds a bit like British Sea Power with a monologue over the end. Packed full of Slash-esque guitar solos. You can see where they’ve used the vintage recording equipment from the Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregan on this track. They enlisted the help of local rock guru Sean Norton for production too.
‘Explosions’ starts with German dialogue from World War 2, followed by battle-drums and scrupulous riffs from heavy metal hell, then it blends into ‘Genesis’ with out-takes of what I can only think is Winston Churchill, and a piano solo that becomes a lulling instrumental. ‘Tetherball’ is NYC punk from the early days of the Stooges in CBGB‘s, with it’s drum assault session and nihilistic riffs. They seem to have run out of ideas come 'Lesson' the twelfth track. ’Commencement’ finds vocal guest Alixe Rheeve mournfully crying through her lyrics.
The more you listen to this record, the more you wish other musicians had this multiplicity. Its' a superb ensemble of songs which keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the course of the album.