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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Oxcart

The Equation

Review by Mark Johnson

Oxcart is a progressive rock band from Portland, Oregon. Their style ranges from Pink Floyd to Radiohead, with some influences from Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age thrown in for variety. The band consists of Jason Baker on guitar and vocals, Eric Welder, bass, Matt Jones, keys, guitar and vocals, and Alex Feletar on drums.

It’s great to find good progressive rock bands locally that provide great music that can be seen on a more regular basis, rather than some of the more well known prog rockers which visit Portland more infrequently. This band could play anywhere and has toured most of the US. Their albums have received good reviews and the Equation, their latest, is no exception. It is full of an interesting storyline, great vocals, lyrics and instrumentation. There are many highlights and the band delivers their original sound with subtle reminders of some of the best of prog’s leaders. Do yourself a favor and check out some progressive rock from a West Coast perspective and pick up this album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Inception

Cool synths and sound effects start this,  then an old radio announcement about the splitting of the atom and the power of self extinction is heard. Then come the vocals that sound like a young David Gilmour,“Got to be a perfect plan. Gotta be a better way / To get up every morning / To wake up to a better way.” It is an early morning reflection of the state of the world from the protagonist of the story set to cool synths and sound effects.

Equation
Soaring lead guitar riffs are well supported with power drums and heavy bass. The Gilmour-like vocals are very cool as the keys join in, “I never should have lived up on the thirteen floor / In my dream I live my day with really nothing to say.” The protagonist is isolated and in need of change. He’s contemplating a trip to California to relieve the stress and change his perspective. The guitars and thundering drums are very good. The bass is right there for support.
Wishes
Heavy bass and the drums rush in with cymbals and cool lead guitar. Falsetto style vocals really add to the effect of the song. The riffs run faster with all instruments revving like they are in a race. This features much heavier guitar than the first two tracks did, set against that falsetto vocal for cool effect. The guitar solos are awesome and full of buzz. It reminds me a little of Mondo Drag. This song is full of heavy bass and some of the best lead guitar on the album. The drums are fantastic along with the keys toward the end of the song. Then a normal vocal enters with jazz like horns in support. This is one of the best songs on the album.
Office
This one picks up without missing a beat from the last cut. It opens with cymbals, bass, piano, and sax taking the place of the lead guitar. We get more of those Gilmouresque vocals set to the sax and piano, “I have recurring dreams / Things I cannot change / No one around today to hear me.” That isolation is so well described by the vocals and the lonely sound of the piano, cymbals, sax and drums. “Everything is so confusing.” The psychedelic synths and keys are a nice addition along with the power chords from the lead and bass. It’s another very cool reflective song. 
Gambler Part 1
Much harder, heavier vocals and lead guitar riffs surface as the protagonist heads to Lake Tahoe, Reno or Vegas and the desert for some relief from the boredom of office life and his home isolation in rain drenched Portland. Heavy riffs abound, from lead and bass guitars along with supportive Pearl Jam like drums and motion.
Gambler Part 2
We hear heavy bass as this part of the epic gambler’s story moves into part two. The drums, keys and synths begin a rhythm and melody supported with bass injections. Then screaming vocals and an almost Pink Floyd Wall – like ripping lead riff enter, before quieter bass and keys take over. The keys stand out more as the song progresses. 
Gambler’s Lament
Heavy keys and bass surround this soundscape with drums and softly played lead guitar as the gambler reflects over his odyssey. Beautiful female vocals reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side fill the air but are replaced by the male vocals as the gambler’s story is laid out in full.
Desert
This is the disc’s epic at over nine minutes length. It includes more sound effects and mono sounding guitar and vocals. The lyrics tell the tale of the gambler, nearly broke, trying to return home. “Gonna start a new life.” The drums and cool buzz guitar takeover the sound. This features fantastic lead riffs, bass and very cool supporting synths.
Explosions
German radio announcers and all sorts of sound effects are heard as a climbing lead guitar riffs upward to the support of pounding drums. This includes loud, in your face vocals. “I don’t wanna try to fall in love again.” They didn’t call this one “Explosions” for nothing! It’s full of powerful lyrics, vocals, drums, bass, and heavy lead guitar. “I just wanna drift away.”
Genesis
The piano takes over without missing a beat, and the best song on the album opens with Winston Churchill’s voice on the radio. A piano instrumental with supporting drums and bass, Winston Churchill trails off with, “this was their finest hour.”
Tetherball
Here is a punk filled smashing song. “Get me off of this string / I can feel the sting / I’ve been hit way too hard / My skin is wrinkled and marred / Get me out of the rain.” It’s funny how this one follows such a quiet and reflective song. But it’s the protagonist coming undone after a return to monotony.  
Lesson
Beautiful keys and slow drums open this one. “Watching the sun rise / Rise in my own eyes.” He’s back to the grind. The guitars and drums come back later with heavy riffs to punctuate.
Commencement
Heavy guitar and a continuation, and slow down of the riffs from the last song are heard here. The beautiful female vocals are in the background at the beginning of the song, as the lead, bass, and drums pound away. Then it turns into almost a duet with male whispered vocals and female singing combine. The blistering lead takes us out as the album finishes.
 
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