t must be said: I haven’t heard Oneida prior to this release. Yeah, I know they’ve released wheelbarrows full of music in their productive career, and I know that most of this output could be lumped loosely under the term “psych-rock.” Of course such a label means almost nothing considering the wide variety of music it describes. But Oneida takes the psych-rock designation seriously, because on this album they try to use every riff, dollop of reverb, and organ key that might merit the tag. The Wedding veers over its rocky territory, taking stops in Germany to jam with Can, in England to mourn at Syd Barrett’s grave, and at the druidic ruins of Led Zeppelin.
But does Oneida escape the long shadow of their legendary host of influences? Mostly yes, because their inspirations merely mark the starting points for the band’s songs, familiar canvases that Oneida can cover with intricate arrangements. The group is inventive and eclectic, never stopping in any cul-de-sac for too long. It helps that Oneida dabbles with instruments beyond the repertoire of the conventional rock band.
Strings are the most notable addition to Oneida’s sound. And not just violin flourishes either: a full-fledged quartet of violin, viola, cello, and double bass drive nearly half of these tracks. Much credit for this album should go to arranger and double bassist Brian Coughlin. Probably the best of these is the opener “Eiger,” an upbeat letter from a mountaineer on the Swiss peak to a German girl. The string arrangement brims with energy, propelling Kid Millions's calm, nearly-overstrained vocals to a galloping pace. The track ends with the repeated phrase “Like lovers that we never were” hanging on the flailing bows of the quartet.
The album maintains momentum with the garage rock drumming and pitch-shifted electric guitar of “Lavender” before spilling into the trippy sprawl of “Spirits.” In “Spirits” muted drums crash in the distance, an electric guitar unleashes snaking, vaguely Eastern melodies, and Doors organ drones. Kid Millions's vocals are appropriately slow and slurred as the song drifts to sludgy (in the right way) end.
“High Life” sees the band take a brief detour in the land of indie rock. An optimistic, insistent synth and shimmering springtime strings perfectly back a quirky relationship story. The song concludes with wonderful “ah-ah” moans that propel the drumming to a cathartic burst.
As if to redeem themselves with the frizz-haired burnout set, Oneida segues immediately into the acid-drenched “Did I Die”—a song made by its yelled chorus of “Did I die or have my eye rolled back inside my head!” The song begs for some serious air guitar riffage and some even more serious bong hits.
The group displays its more minimal side on “The Beginning is Nigh.” The title is appropriate—the song creates a repetitive trance aura that would suitably soundtrack life in the womb just before birth. Guitars pile up and echo over a prominent, somber bassline and a locked drumbeat. Fat Bobby drops some slow cryptic verses about chaos, floods, etc that nicely accent the disarming power of the music. The track could continue indefinitely, but it sadly ends after a mere seven minutes.
The Wedding has some slow tracks, but they’re greatly outnumbered by winners that leap over a baffling range of musical styles. One could ask for a little more consistency from the group—they could sacrifice some stylistic variety for a better hit-to-miss ratio—but that would rob Oneida of their greatest virtue. As a listener, I’ll accept a few bad tracks for the sake of talented, avid experimentation.
Reviewed by: Bryan Berge
Reviewed on: 2005-05-02