With their classic albums hard to find, Oily Years is the most efficient way for the neophyte to be introduced to the eccentric stylings of avant-pop band the Scene Is Now. Compiling tracks from their three full-length releases, plus a few unreleased numbers, Oily Years demonstrates the sonic shifts evident as the band's lineup changed from album to album (except for Scene captains Phil Dray and Chris Nelson). The selections drawn from the Scene Is Now's debut long-player, Burn All Your Records, establish the playful experimentalism and quirky sensibilities they embraced, albeit in a decidedly lo-fi fashion. "Social Practice" hijacks the writings of Chairman Mao for its lyric, and "Yellow Sarong" suggests a surrealistic South Sea island setting with its toy xylophones and out of tune guitar strumming. The rough-hewn charms of cracked rhythms, sing-song warbling and home-recording techniques are tempered somewhat on later recordings like "A Man's Coconut" and "Gone for a Long, Long Time," as the lineup expanded to include New York indie rock luminaries like Will Rigby and Tony Maimone. Even if the sonic landscape is a bit tidier, however, the Scene Is Now retained its wit and taste for meandering, stream-of-consciousness song structures. Fans of Half Japanese, They Might Be Giants and Yo La Tengo are likely to appreciate this quietly influential band, and Oily Years will tell them all they need to know.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Beldin