The opening vinyl crackle and quasi-folk intro of Oxbow’s 1989 debut Fuckfest are deceptive forces that give no indication of how you’re about to be pummeled by some kind of orgiastic freeform music that incorporates just about every genre of rock ever conceived. Opener “Curse” has an overall vibe of staggering hardcore that melts into a demented freakout. Eugene Robinson’s vocals are totally unintelligible, but it’s evident that he is being tormented by something awful—broken glass in his shoes, or a fiery demon?—as he shrieks and mutters. “30 Miles” has a college rock meets Alice in Chains vibe, and the sporadic instrumentation of “Valley” leaves you disoriented like a drunken ride on a merry-go-round. The grungy stomp of “Bull’s Eye” is accompanied by Robinson’s possessed screeching, which might ruin the song if you don’t keep in mind that this is not made for MTV. “Yoke” takes on the feel of a raunchy and hallucinatory marching band, and the nine-minute drone of “Hunger” isn’t so much music as it is a weird kind of distorted ambiance that suggests drowning slowly. Therein is the draw and repulsion of Oxbow: It’s bizarre music that alternates between structured and random, but it’s always an expression of raw emotion. As the title alone suggests, it’s clear that Oxbow isn’t playing by the rules or going for mass appeal with Fuckfest. They’re going for your throat by making their music their way, and you’ll either respect it or go to hell.
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