Oxes ‎– The Fourth Wall

5 out of 5

Label: Computer Students

Produced by: Sarah Register (remaster); Simon Askew (Peel Sessions)

This is a loving, dedicated reissue / remaster of an imperfect album – Oxes’ first – that helps to re-present it in a new light for those of us who went on the first ride in a CD format, while also blessing the sound with a slightly more organic and percussion-favoring feel.

Conceptually, I’ve always loved the Oxes – anarchic instrumental math metal; I’m always game – but on album, it’s a mixed bag. This is somewhat expected, given that a lot of their shtick was built up vibing off of a live audience, and their debut album was both a little too polished in the sound department, and also too scattered – a lot of fun singles, but an okay album. There’s a dumb argument I’ve made regarding format on some other reviews – that the physical interaction with getting up and flipping an LP over can be part of the listening experience, positively or negatively, and in this case, it’s a positive: even with just a forced pause in the middle of the album, it breaks the “flow,” which is good, since that’s one of the things the album was lacking. Also, Sarah Register’s remaster makes things sound a bit crispier, also favoring a more engaged listen. So the new edition of the album works great.

Over to the second LP, we get a Peel session recording, which reinserts some of the banter and organic goofiness we’re missing out on from the live shows – Everlong cover included! – while also showing off how these Oxes dudes were pulling off album-accurate insane guitar / drums interplay without any cutesy studio interference, in case you had any doubts. For those familiar with the songs (which I’m assuming most owners of this album will be), the couple tracks from Oxxxes and the stuff from the first album which are covered have a little bit of wiggle room and a nice rawness as compared to the originals, definitely making the extra versions of these tracks a worthwhile listen.

And then to the packaging: standout stuff. The painted reinterpretation of the original artwork is a hoot, and I’m a big fan of Computer Students’ roboticized typeface, used on the album labels. The LP-sized booklet is also jam-packed with photos and interesting snippets from the band, or various people tangential to them.

Definitely the standard of sound quality and extras and design to which all special edition remasters / reissues should aim.