Oxbow invades your space. This six-song CD, originally released in 1990, begins with the sound of a record playing -- vinyl crackle and some gentle, looping music. After a minute or so, though, the band roars to life like they came in and plugged in their amps while you were listening to something else, and now your attention is 100-percent focused on them, for good or ill. Frontman Eugene Robinson's voice doesn't match his large, muscular, physical presence -- he's not a growler, but one who howls in a high-pitched, anguished voice somewhere between Robert Plant and Birthday Party-era Nick Cave. The lyrics are almost entirely indecipherable on this album (they become clearer on later Oxbow discs), and his voice is frequently swallowed by the physical impact of the band, which surges and ebbs like the ocean, tearing into noisy blues riffs like a lion ripping hunks of meat from a gazelle. The mix is crystal-clear, each instrument occupying its own territory within the sonic landscape; the bass and drums are as important as the guitars or the vocals, and the men of Oxbow recognize this. Occasional extra sounds crop up -- female vocals, strings, snippets of conversation, background noise sampled and looped -- but the foundation and core of their music is guitars, bass, and drums. Sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, but Niko Wenner is a master of sculpting noise and tone, sometimes shadowing Robinson, other times drowning him out. This is a fierce, rigorous album that challenges almost every preconception rock listeners might have.
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman