About a year-and-a-half ago, this Brooklyn squall-n-throb trio dropped an album that, like the near-blinding fireball on its cover, obliterated everything they'd done before, leaving their previous efforts in a smoldering heap. Each One Teach One dared to take the psych spotlight off Japan for a moment. That album's 58 or so minutes of largely instrumental, one- and two-chord -- sometimes one- and two-key -- organ-heavy excursions into repetition's icier hemispheres was bound to be a tough act to follow.
Yet Oneida followed it anyway, bringing us to Secret Wars, an album that can't help but be a disappointment. First, the bad stuff. When it comes to vocals, there's nobody in this band whose voice is any match for the syrupy distorted sludge oozing out from behind the mike. Whatever it is they're singing about here, they don't mean it, though they want to. Also, unlike Teach One, or Y2K's Royal Trux-ish guit-fest, C'Mon Everybody Let's Rock, the overall sound of this disc is lacking, as if they've purposely denied us the ability to wallow around, get sticky and emerge filthy but better for it.
But it's far from being a clunker. "Wild Horses" (not the Stones cover) moves backward and re-emphasizes the guitar, with a nod in the direction of would-be rock gods, Come. "The Winter Shaker" shows with one chord, slammed home repeatedly, why rock is not about subtlety. Yet it's the album's 14-plus-minute instrumental closer, "Changes in the City," that truly salvages Secret Wars, bringing relief to any one of us who craved the fury of the last album and were getting kinda worried, as Secret Wars' tracks trudged past, that we might not get it.