Brooklyn was a very different place before 9/11. The outskirts of Fort Greene were still sketchy to walk through at night. The transplant infestation was still somewhat manageable. L’Amour’s was open. You could still get a decent falafel on Bedford Ave. And while all of these quaint little quirks of everyone’s favorite borough are but only memories as the evil tree of gentrification continues to grow, one thing will always remain while Brooklyn still stands: Oneida will release a new album.
Even though corporate zone raping robbed them of their longtime studio and practice space to make way for a new mall, they retaliated in the most radical way they could at this point, by putting out their most melodic, accessible album yet. Though not entirely removed from their previous exercises in hybridizing Blue Cheer and Throbbing Gristle, “Happy New Year” employs a melodic, dare I say even pop aesthetic the likes of which was never heard before from this band. Well, at least not of this magnitude.
“Pointing Fingers” flirts dangerously close to the sound of their new-school BK rivals TV On The Radio, while “History’s Great Navigators” could’ve been a classic Queens Of The Stone Age cut if they ever decided to can the whole frat boy trip in favor of art house swagger. And if you listen really closely, you might be able to catch a little taste of righteous electro-funk on the anthemic “Up With People,” thanks in part to the influence of Trans Am guitarist Phil Manley, who logs in his second major appearance on an Oneida record here following his work on 2005’s “The Wedding.”
Hardcore noisemongers might cry mutiny over this one, but “Happy New Year” nevertheless stands tall as the cohesive rock classic you knew they always had in them. Mall of America, be damned! — Ron Hart