After condensing the last four decades of mainstream music into five trend-filled years, America finds itself once again looking to the 1960s for inspiration. This time around, however, we’re not concerned with lo-fi garage pop. We’re watching the “freak folk” trend of 2004 progress into a cult appreciation of more straightforward psych-rock. With recent releases by 1960s-influenced bands such as the Gris Gris, Weird War and Dungen, as well as renewed name-dropping of groups such as Love and the Seeds, music influenced by 1960s psychedelia seems destined for stardom. And yet it merely remains a cult hit in the indie world, finding itself buried too deeply to make it anywhere close to the mainstream. This is where you’ll find Oneida.
Since its 1997 debut, A Place Called El Shaddai’s (the band’s only LP not released on Jagjaguwar), Oneida has since retained a retro quality that made its arrival — ironically — a bit before its time. While maintaining a constant ‘60s rock quality, each album has let the band progress into new directions: 2000’s Come On Everybody Let’s Rock had a slightly poppier quality than the band’s experimental debut, and with the departure of founding guitarist Papa Crazee, 2004’s well-received Secret Wars took on a softer, more musical psych-rock tone. Ten months later, the droning Nice/Splittin’ Peaches EP made it seem as though Oneida had officially found a level of maturity in which to further delve. This only became more apparent with The Wedding, a project that began in 2001 and was built around the concept of a giant music box.
While recognizably Oneida, The Wedding is slightly inconsistent — songs like the blatant AC/DC mock-up “Did I Die” stick out within an otherwise beautiful record — yet is more elegant than the band’s previous releases. “Run Through My Hair” is where we clearly get an idea of this “music-box influence” the band has spoken about: a delicate tinkling that dictates the graceful direction of the song and, ultimately, the album itself. “Spirits” does an excellent job of highlighting the intense drumming of Kid Millions, who often stands out on Oneida tracks and is half of what gives the band such a genuinely late-1960s, almost Krautrock sound. This is the type of song that makes the album transition well after last year’s Nice, though the inclusion of string sections on opener “The Eiger,” as well as the lighter “Know,” give the album its palatable feel.
The Wedding is certainly one of the best records this band has released and, more important, one of the better rock records released this year. Which is potentially the most disappointing aspect to consider, because Oneida has spent a few years receiving good reviews while being largely ignored by the public. The fact that Oneida can’t seem to shine even when its style is fashionable makes me hopeful that the next album from the band will be The One. Until that day arrives, though, The Wedding will serve as one of several fantastic stepping stones for the group, helping garner Oneida a larger fan base of those ready for a varied but focused rock album.