The big news is Drums & Tuba's return after their three-year break from the studio is filled with vocals, most from drummer Tony Nozero. This is still classic Drums & Tuba -- King Crimson meets beat-filled post-punk with jam band freedom -- with the band a little more focused on groove and angst. In other words, the post-punk aspect is working double time on Battles Olé, with Nozero's Howard Devoto-meets-Richard Butler vocals emphasizing everything '80s and underground about the record. Big difference is few punkers or punk-funkers let the songs stretch out like they do here, and nobody ran a band back then with just tuba, guitar, and drums. After an atmospheric intro, the opening "Two Dollars" thunders and throbs like Liquid Liquid-loving stoner rock while "Four Notes of April" combines funky pipes and pans percussion over a sinister song that's Love and Rockets at their most prog. The epic "Magnum Opie" features all the improvisation and time changes of the old days for a gripping ten minutes, but the crunchy and difficult "If I Die" that follows proves this band isn't one to live in the past or provide safe haven for anyone who comes with expectations. Nozero's vocals are just part of the sonic wash, with Brian Wolff's tuba acting as bass and Neil McKeely's drum still providing the hypnotic rhythms all the swirling notes cling on. As firm rhythms take hold and waves of sound envelope the listener, the quirkiness of the instrumentation disappears even faster than it does when listening to the similarly built Morphine. Hardly contrived and way past clever, with Battles Olé Drums & Tuba have moved well past breaking rules and focus on making hallucinatory music that was meant to be.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries