When listening to Dirty Three’s Everything’ Fucked, it’s the kind of song that doesn’t need words. The music speaks tells the story.
Talking to the co-founder of an independent record label last week and hearing them explain the struggles of getting people to listen to new music reminded me of Everything’s Fucked.
It also reminded me Oneida’s latest record, Success.
A band that has consistently released new music, Oneida’s full catalogue isn’t something that is instantly palatable. Such as their mind-bending genre-hopping qualities (2009’s Rated O), Oneida are a band for a specific time rather than an everyday go-to. However, when Oneida release a good record, they release a really fucking good record.
And Success is just that. A band that has perhaps been too rock for psych and almost too psych for the indie purists, Oneida has always projected outlier tendencies. Make no mistake, though: Success is a rock ’n’ roll record that everyone needs in their lives.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Success marks the longest break in between records for Oneida – 2018’s Romance being their last. Four years on, and Oneida have had time to reflect, refine and execute.
Starting with the scintillating Beat Me to the Punch. With serrated guitars and wicked motorik beats, Oneida captures the kind of intensity one would experience at a Wooden Shjips show.
Opportunities is vintage Oneida. Erratic and electric, for a band that has been through the transition of culture – from physical product to streaming, to the gentrification of their beloved New York – for a band to still come out kicking like they do is a minor miracle. This isn’t a band limping on. Anything but, in fact.
And Low Tide is further evidence. A sparks-flying spasmodic rage of sound with Mission of Burma-like rumbles and sinister layers of sound in what is the kind of guitar pile on Sonic Youth would be proud of.
It leads into Success’ centre piece, I Wanna Hold Your Electric Hand. Instant psych-rock splendour that seeps into the pores, forever occupying the bloodstream. It’s Oneida operating on the flanks of fucking dance rock but adding their own nuances to it. In what is an oasis of hedonism, like always, Oneida reinvents their own sound world but still manage to hit you in all the right places.
While Paralyzed sees Oneida exercising their staple experimental-rock leanings, the song acts as a circuit breaker for us to merely catch our breath. Then there’s Rotten – the kind of song that could only be written with the benefit of living some life (“My sweetheart doesn’t taste so sweet anymore/ It must be one of us is rotten to the core/ But it won’t go back to the way it was before”). A straight up no-nonsense barrage, mixing elements of pop with go-to indie rock.
Which leads into closing track, Solid. A proto-punk roar that shakes the foundations of the shiny new buildings that adorn the New York skylines. The very same new buildings which are said to have inspired Success.
It’s a perfect end to Success. A record that simply just lines up. Oneida kick against the status quo whilst still maintaining the kind of artistic relevance so many of their contemporaries of the last two decades no longer have. Just look at the title. Oneida have always had a playful side and have never been afraid to show it. And while Success isn’t likely to draw in new ears, as the disposability of pop culture continues to be the scourge across the creative landscape, bands like Oneida confirm that there is still hope.
And while the Dirty Three’s prescience with Everything’s Fucked remains steadfast, at least we still have bands like Oneida making albums likes Success.
Success is out now via Joyful Noise Recordings. Purchase from Bandcamp.