OXBOW: Thin Black Duke: LP

Oxbow is known for being an art rock band that often defies comparison. Their albums have often been very inaccessible to the casual music fan. Oxbow’s latest offering, Thin Black Duke, is far different, though. The aggressiveness exhibited on past albums is rare. (The exception is “A Gentleman’s Gentleman,” which has vocalist Eugene Robinson spitting and snarling his words for the first few minutes.) The eight songs on the album are at times beautiful, with piano, strings, and horns mixed with guitar, bass, and drums. Sometimes Oxbow locks into a groove and other times they’re sparse and gentle. On the whole, the band that they most reminded me of on Thin Black Duke is Faith No More, but there is a wider array of things going on here. At times, the forty minutes of music comes across as almost orchestral but there’s no doubt there is still muscle and a non-traditional structure to the sound. Still, it’s a much different angle for the band, but one I highly recommend, even if you’ve never been a fan of the Bay Area quartet. –Kurt Morris (Hydra Head, hydraheadrecords.com)