The men in Oneida are incredibly serious when they invite everybody to rock. How on earth they manage to extend this invite without falling into the pathos and cliché of the rock is a great mystery and their greatest achievement. Neither tongue-in-cheek nor caricature, they understand what it means to rock in such a profound and singular fashion that something must be terribly wrong with them or the rest of the world. “I Love Rock” is dense even before it begins, using stray guitar, feedback and microphone checks to let us know what lies ahead. This first track also establishes the obsessive preoccupation with rock that pathogenically infects the entire record and anyone who hears it.
Much has been made (by a curious cadre of British music press people) of the Brooklyn loft scene and Oneida’s strong filiations therein. For those of us who aren’t tapped into the scene, it is an utterly useless path of inquiry. It’s hard to understand how this band happened or how they continue to exist, but who cares? Media technologies make it possible for Oneida to arrive via jewel case, and push stereo speakers more aggressively than the drunkest NYC scenester. These sounds are puzzling and very great. While most of the world seems to be done with guitar, drums and bass, Oneida understands why those instruments matter, how they work, and why they remain inexhaustible. Add an organ (conceptually wrong, but somehow so right, especially in the strange interlude on “Snow Machine”) and that still fails to explain the sound of this record. It just rocks.