Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: O. WeirdOs

Speedy Wunderground
Speedy Wunderground

No band can be good at everything. O. don’t do lyrics, for one thing, so I can’t compliment their daring vulnerability or clever turns of phrase, save for the wordplay involved in calling their debut album WeirdOs and packaging it like a box of cereal. They also have no apparent regard for search engine optimization, though the period in the band name saves them from becoming impossible to locate on streaming services. Despite the Google-resistant branding, no band that kicks up the kind of racket heard on WeirdOs can really be hiding in plain sight. That’s a skill set O. have on lock: They make all kinds of invigorating noise, sounds that make you pause to wonder what exactly you’re hearing before you turn your brain back off and give yourself over to the chaos.

Joe Henwood plays baritone sax through a pedalboard full of effects, morphing the sound of his instrument in radical ways. Behind the drumkit, Tash Keary holds those experiments together and sometimes strategically lets them fall apart. It’s a configuration that has worked wonders for Sydney’s Party Dozen, but whereas that band’s music errs on the blown-out and apocalyptic side, O. wrangle myriad rhythms and textures into an exploratory expanse. Sometimes their music can be quite fiery, evoking sonic aggressors like Lightning Bolt or Death From Above 1979, but just as often it reminds me of late ‘90s and early 2000s hip-hop and electronic producers like DJ Shadow or Squarepusher.

O. have a pedigree. They hail from the Windmill Brixton scene in London that gave us brainy and explosive bands like black midi, Squid, and Black Country, New Road. In addition to an early residency at the Windmill, they’ve toured with black midi and Ireland’s similarly noisy Gilla Band. Their album is produced by Dan Carey, the go-to producer for this generation of UK post-punk acts, and released on his Speedy Wunderground label. The most reliable exporters of off-kilter indie music from London have thrown their weight behind these two.

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The duo also has a familiar backstory: After hitting it off after being hired for the same gig in 2019, they bubbled up during COVID and spent months honing their approach, playing along with their favorite records and giving their first performance via livestream. By the time they were able to play concerts in public, they’d developed an intoxicating alchemy. Witnessing the band in person during SXSW this year, I was impressed by how much noise Henwood and Keary were able to conjure and how many different ways Henwood could mutate the sound of his sax.

WeirdOs documents both the power and the versatility. “TV Dinners” morphs from twisted cartoon funk to a breathtaking buildup that reminds me of big beat techno, ultimately breaking its tension with torrential drum fills and gargantuan extended chords like Hella attempting Explosions In The Sky. “Micro” infuses drum ‘n’ bass breakbeats with nerdy rock energy in a way that reminds me of the deeper corners of Incubus’ S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (complimentary). “Sugarfish” builds atmosphere like a spy movie theme before dropping in ghettotech drum programming, ambient synths, and, ultimately, another monster sax riff filtered through layers of distortion.

Unfolding multiple transformations within each song, O. keep things engaging throughout the 10-song tracklist, never letting their approach settle into shtick. It’s an achievement in ways both technical (the drum fills on “Whammy,” wow) and technological (over the course on “Cosmo,” the sax goes from sounding like a warped keyboard to a filthy blown-out bass). I don’t know if the approach will continue to feel novel for more than an album or two, but WeirdOs captures the kind of chemistry and inventiveness that could keep a band vital indefinitely. Not to harp on the band name again, but the current punctuation suggests an indifference that doesn’t square with my experience; on WeirdOs, it’s exclamation points all the way down.

WeirdOs is out 6/21 via Speedy Wunderground.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Alcest’s Les Chants de l’Aurore
• Peso Pluma’s Éxodo
• Been Stellar’s Scream From New York, NY
• Pond’s Stung!
• Kehlani’s Crash
• Lawn member Rui Gabriel’s Compassion
• Gracie Abrams’ The Secret Of Us
• Islands’ What Occurs
• Your Old Droog’s Movie
• Sis’ Vibhuti
• Other Half’s Dark Ageism
• Kate Nash’s 9 Sad Symphonies
• The Story So Far’s I Want To Disappear
• Linda Thompson’s Proxy Music
• Zacari’s Bliss
• Lake Street Dive’s Good Together
• Pepe Deluxé’s Comix Sonix
• SUMAC’s The Healer
• Moon Diagrams’ Cemetery Classics
• Kittie’s Fire
• ionnalee’s Close Your Eyes & Blund
• Aseethe’s The Cost
• Model Child’s Get There!
• Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s TexiCali
• Foreign Hands’ What’s Left Unsaid
• The Joy’s The Joy
• Rich Ruth’s Water Still Flows
• Hayes Noble’s As It Was, As We Were
• The Greeting Committee’s Everyone’s Gone And I Know I’m The Cause
• Toddy’s Always
• Black Decelerant’s Reflections Vol. 2: Black Decelerant
• Alice Ivy’s Do What Makes You Happy
• Wild Yaks’ Monumental Deeds
• Eve Essex’s The Fabulous Truth
• Charles Gayle, Milford Graves, & William Parker’s WEBO
• Kronos Quartet & Friends Meet Sun Ra’s Outer Spaceways Incorporated
• Sheppard’s ZORA
• Daniel Davies’ Ghost Of The Heart
• Kai Tak’s Designed In Heaven Made In Hong Kong
• Wild Up’s Julius Eastman Vol. 4: The Holy Presence
• Wage War’s STIGMA
• Joe Gittleman’s Hold Up
• Zoot Woman’s Maxidrama
• Jessica Boudreaux’s The Faster I Run
• Swim Surreal’s In The Half Light
• El Larra’s Santa Cruz
• Toddy’s Always
• The Mysterines’ Afraid Of Tomorrows
• Nonkeen’s All Good?
• Lawrence’s Family Business
• Swerve’s The Darkroom
• dazegxd’s Exhibition Mode
• Leslie Mendelson’s After The Party
• Tinkertown’s American Gothic
• Surfaces’ Good Morning
• Wee2Hard’s Built 2 Last
• The Grateful Dead’s From The Mars Hotel (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
• Lankum’s Live In Dublin
• Joni Mitchell’s The Asylum Albums (1976-1980)
• Royal Headache’s Live In America
• Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans (Deluxe Edition)
• Avril Lavigne’s Avril Lavigne: The Greatest Hits
• Jesse Malin’s Chasing The Light live album
• The country-themed Tom Petty tribute album Petty Country
• Various artists’ The Henry Mancini 100th Sessions – Henry Has Company
• Various artists’ NOISE FOR NOW VOL. 2
• Rinse’s Starfish EP
• John Glacier’s Duppy Gun EP
• The 80s’ The Pursuit EP
• Sub*T’s Spring Skin EP
• Priscilla Block’s PB2 EP
• Gasket’s BABYLON EP
• Automotion’s Dissolve EP
• Jahnah Camille’s i tried to freeze light, but only remember a girl EP
• Corrupt Vision & Se Vende – How Much Trash Is Enough? split EP

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