Surreal Estate Records
21 June 2010
by Tom Dare
‘Tiny when erect’. ‘I’m retarded’. ‘Giant ballbag’. ‘A euphemism for tits’. These are not the nicknames for the writers at Thrash Hits (well, not this week anyway) but song titles from the debut record from Oaf. If that does not get you interested, what will get your attention is the music. No matter how diverse your tastes, you have not heard the like of Botheration before.
It should be pointed out that one half of Oaf is Metal Hammer scribe Dom Lawson, and occasional Twitter-sparring partner of this writer. As a result, feel free to suspect a media circle-jerk instead of an honest review, and weigh any remarks in this piece with that knowledge in mind. Though if you do, you’re probably a tedious little shit with a overly-active investment in your own cynicism (how’s that working out for you, by the way?). Now we’ve got that settled, let’s get on with this review, shall we?
Bar the guest guitar solo on ‘Giant Ballbag’ from Justin Hawkins of The Darkness fame, Oaf’s sound is based almost entirely around the sound of the drums, bass guitar and vocals. This makes for a very gnarly feel, something augmented by the abrasive shouted vocals. The strong, DIY punk feel is aided in particular by the production, managing to remain clear enough to be audible while sounding very lo-fi and distorted. The bass guitar is played far more like a six-string- chords, riffs and tune forming the basis of the music. Add in a progressive element and you have something rather different to your average punk band.
After the introduction – or ‘The Oaferture’ – the deceptively gentle intro to ‘A Euphemism For Tits’ gives way as the aggression rips through, all flying elbows and spittle. ‘The Black Whale’ briefly threatens to slacken the intensity, only for the rawness of the vocals to kick you back into life. The more overtly progressive elements of Oaf begin to come across more on ‘Giant Ballbag’, the unpredictable structure and slightly off-kilter timing making completely sure you can never relax and let your attention wander. At Botheration‘s midpoint, any doubts that may have remained about the sense of humour of the band are cast aside. The wry smile and ironic glint in the eyes lurking behind the music become plain.
After the superbly titled ‘Wanking With A Fistful Of Shit’, the infectious, sardonic ‘I’m Retarded’ is the most accessible track, and will have you garnering odd looks by shouting along with the main refrain on the bus. Although seriously, don’t go around shouting “I’m retarded!” in public – someone will hit you.
Things move back into more progressive and chaotic realms from there on. The harsh and spikey nature of Oaf’s sound, combined with the intricacy of some of the musical ideas on Botheration take several listens to get to grips with, but there are sufficient hooks that even the first listen allows absorption of ideas. The music – which is obviously taken seriously – manages to avoid the realms of pomposity or pretension it could easily slide into. The deliberate garage-band sound and obvious sense of humour permeating the album ensure a grounded feeling that fits the earthy, filthy sound perfectly.
Botheration is a novel and interesting venture into the realms of aggressive and unpleasant proggy punk. The end of the album lets you know that, if everything sounds horrible and disgusting, it is deliberate. If the intentional unpleasantness is all you took from listening to it the first time, you have missed something.
Sounds like: Cardiacs, Nomeansno, bass guitar, drums.
Top tracks: A Euphemism For Tits, Giant Ballbag, I’m Retarded
Oaf – Botheration tracklisting:
A Euphemism For Tits
The Black Whale
No More Tickets For The Time Machine
Wanking With A Fistful Of Shit
Todd Bernhardt Is A Friend Of Mine
Tiny When Erect
Living On The Ceiling