There are no hooks on this album, nor is there anywhere online one can easily find the fairly indecipherable lyrics. Guitarist and chief composer Niko Wenner ditched the woodwinds that played a prominent role in Narcotic Story and supplements his dense arrangements with a brass octet and a pair of string quartets. It is chaos held together, but bursting at its seams with radical energy, with loud trumpets threatening to tear the whole damn thing down. On Thin Black Duke, songwriter and guitarist Niko Wenner explores the power of restraint even further. While there is a definable vein of familiarity running through the jugular of their music, the many vessels and channels they traverse over the courses of their albums can make it extremely difficult to keep up. Meanwhile, the tenacious and imposing presence of vocalist Eugene Robinson provides a mouth-piece for the character of The Thin Black Duke, whose deviousness represents the seven deadly sins while also taking a shot at the religious doctrine that concept is borne from.
While their music still traverses maddeningly Byron-esque landscapes and still has a healthy dose of raging distortion ringing through out it isn't anywhere near as punishing as their younger selves were. Robinson teeters on the edge with his tantrum-like cries as the band anchors the madness, throwing in everything they have. How much of it hinges on Eugene S. As I said earlier, you do not get an Oxbow record on the first listen and this is the case with Thin Black Duke, but that does not stop you from falling under its subtle charms. Oxbow's latest, Think Black Duke somehow comes a whole decade after their last release The Narcotic Story, which was also released on Aaron Turner's Hydra Head Records. Lyrically, Thin Black Duke is a masterpiece. .
This album is artful, beastly, gorgeously arranged, and unforgettable. Writing anything about a band who are as well read and sublime as Oxbow is daunting, especially for my dyslexic style of writing, doing it twice is nuts. This shit is straight-up evil, with repeated lyrical references to the titular Thin Black Duke, which appears to be a character Robinson plays. In that time, their contemporaries Swans, Enablers and Harvey Milk have all come along and disappeared again, each prophesying their apocalyptic nightmares to relative commercial success. To be completely honest, that previous sentence right there could describe the entire album. I could go into detail as I did in the other blog about each song, but it will be a repeat of that sonnet which has already been written.
The result was seemingly a culmination of decades of work — the record that they had been moving towards since the beginning. Ironically, this may well be Oxbow's most accessible album yet. As the group shifts through up-beat, distorted riffs, Robinson mumbles nearly incoherently before settling into a partially growled, partially spoken description of the record's title character. Horns, strings and piano swirl around the trio of musicians as they shove the record to its intense conclusion. As I stated before, it will take one hell of an album for this to be beaten in 2017, someone is going to have to create an opus beyond human reckoning. Some bands have an aura about them, something which you cannot put your finger on as the music created is beyond description.
His instantly recognisable tones and range sounds relentlessly pained at this terrifying universe the band are reflecting upon, with just the right amount of sinister turns to keep his character both sympathetic and alluring. Bottom Line: Oxbow have been one of the most intriguing, original and uncompromising bands since their inception. Oxbow are a band who command respect from all who hear their call, they are their own masters and they have little concern for anything but their own sound. With any Oxbow release, it takes many times for my brain to have an inkling of understanding what it is about, as the craftmanship that goes into each note, each uttered word, each drum skin hit is inspiring and on a different level to almost every other band out there. Robinson comes in sounding like Eddie Vedder mid-panic-attack, establishing quite a bit of tension right at the outset. In this score, Oxbow are in a league of their own with the Thin Black Duke.
Furthermore, The Thin Black Duke is at best a cryptic homage. While Oxbow's early material seemed combustible at every turn, constantly on the brink of descending into utter discord, the songs on Thin Black Duke see the band entirely in command. Thin Black Duke is an album I have been anticipating as a reviewer and a fan, it is also an album I had the honour to review twice — one for Bearded Gentleman Music and once for Which is probably just as well, as I knew that this album would take a long time to absorb, to explorer as fully as possible. The Thin White Duke emerged from the drug-fueled pressure cooker of the late 70s, making his debut on the title track of Station to Station. The album was just placed tenth on the ultra-prestigious year-end list from The Quietus, so you know they are doing something right. It is not designed for mass consumption, it is not to be digested by the masses as it is not a cookie dough, easy fit, identikit one size fits all product. Formed in 1988, Oxbow have been mixing a blend of Avant Garde jazz and noise, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes as a song over the course of their six previous records.
It also performs a complete 180, beginning with metallic atonality and concluding on some surprisingly beautiful piano chord progressions. As the group moves through the song, Robinson's vocals are front and center, only now he's worked his screams and moans into more of a dreary croon. Robinson might lead you to believe he can and will kick your ass not to mention his on the subject , what you should be far more afraid of is his uncontainable presence behind the microphone. I usually try to think of some sort of criticism, so that my reviews do not sound like a one-sided fan boy piece, but this review is pretty much a love letter to an album that is hard to love and impossible to put down. Owner of more Frank Zappa music than one human needs, two cats and looked after by an Angel, Eddie Carter thinks about music more than a Geordie should. I am still trying to understand the depths of the record and to gauge more understanding from each spin.
Rather, like Swans at their most confrontational, they distill politics down to its starkest, most unsavory essence: power. It is a masterpiece, one that is without equal in 2017 so far and one that will be incredibly hard to beat. Weekly Schedule Check out the Daily Music Discussion every day of the week! He also writes for All The Time I Was Listening to My Own Wall of Sound, his beard is grey and not long enough — also, he wants a pint. Robinson's words spin out a narrative yarn that keeps the album a fascinating listen which rewards repeat turns has one grows more accustomed to his voice and character, digging deeper into the album's dark heart. Full of twists and turns, the band navigate through various misleading passages, all the while maintaining the one signature riff which the song is built upon. Where will Oxbow go from here? What is initially most evident in modern-day Oxbow is age.
They have always been a consistent unit, but they feel like a band you don't realise you miss until they've not been around for a while. Get hip to one of the craziest live performers I have seen. I wish there were more albums created with this much attention to detail, with this much passion, determination and skill. I am truly floored by this record, the strength behind the music is amazing and I am finding it hard to put into words just how beautiful this album sounds. In an age where more and more bands seem reluctant to push themselves beyond simple genre-based limitations, it is pleasing to still have acts like Oxbow around to show the current generation how it is done. Review by Thin Black Duke differentiates itself from previous Oxbow albums by being a dense musical affair in ways the band has never before successfully achieved.
You have to think of this album in terms of art, its something that is still torturing my mind and dreams, and I have been listening to it at least once a week since I purchased it. It is perhaps because the band give themselves lengthy amounts of time to produce their at times nightmarish material, but there is a real swagger about Thin Black Duke that isn't merely an ode to the recently deceased Thin White Duke though it doesn't hurt. The signifiers of power — money and sex — are consistently recurring figures in frontman Eugene S. They have crafted an album which is standing head and shoulders above everything else that has been released so far in 2017, this might be a bold statement, but Oxbow are not your average band and Thin Black Duke is not your average album. However, it gives the listener a great idea, but not at all a complete idea, of what they can come to expect for the following seven songs. They even recruited Steve Albini to help them record some albums in the mid-90s, which are also worth a listen.