Oxes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since releasing its excellent eponymous debut two years ago, this cracked Baltimore math rock trio has squandered too much creative energy on conceptual humor. In March 2001 it released what purported to be a split ten-inch with Rhode Island freakholes Arab on Radar; in reality Oxes filled the "Arab on Radar" side of the record with a careful impersonation of their supposed partners. On the B side of a subsequent single they covered a Foo Fighters song. And the release of their second album, Oxxxes (Monitor), was preceded by a silly media hoax in which the trio claimed that the album's original artwork (a photo story of a woman drugging and then raping the unconscious band members, complete with male frontal nudity) had been protested so vigorously that the label was forced to change it. The album's actual artwork features a motley crew of "protesters" hoisting goofy placards that say stuff like "Oxes Suck Coxes" and "Equal Rights Does Not Include Nudity." Too bad Oxes didn't put the same effort into their music. The debut did a masterful job of showcasing the band's impressive chops--tricky unison lines, tight metallic riffs, and extreme dynamic leaps. But it also subverted expectations by upending time-tested prog resolutions with a variety of disintegration tactics--a pummeling drum pattern dropping suddenly into some whimsically dancing rim shots or lumbering guitar riffs that dissolve into gnarled string jumble. Oxxxes, produced by Bob Weston, offers a bit more low-end thud, but the band takes fewer chances. Isis and Dalek also perform. Thursday, September 26, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dennis Drenner.

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