|ONO released Albino on October 31, 2012|
The task of setting the stage for ONO fell upon The Hecks, a jarringly creative two-piece who made a quick fan out of me when they opened up for Black Dice back in May. The songs, and the band, seem to have grown since then, at once aware of their pop instincts and simultaneously torturing them into something fascinating and freshly energetic. It's a nervous energy, one that inspires as much bopping as it does heart-racing. The driving force behind the band is the tension in that duality. Similar to Joy Division (in aesthetic, not so much in sound), the duo whips up bright licks and magnetic shifts, only to yank them into melancholy, and frankly distressing, sonic freakouts. Andrew Mosiman's deadpan delivery consistently dripped across jagged chords and strangely-tuned throngs, biding time until another tightly arranged wave of pop.
Attempting to pinhole ONO into a genre is an exercise in futility. Borrowing elements from gospel, no-wave, post-punk, jazz, noise rock and gothic industrial, among many other flavors, the safest and most succinct route is to simply refer to them as experimental art. That term can mean just about anything, and therein lies its appeal- ONO is about possibilities. I've caught the band several times in 2012, and like fellow WCR writer Andrew Hertzberg admitted in his New Year's Resolutions piece back in January, I feel like a fool for every time I've missed them in the past. Every ONO show is a unique happening, the band at a new angle, music at a new angle. Their performances are such a part of their identity that it's no wonder they haven't devoted more time to putting out records.
"Veil," also from Albino, ripped at a fiercer pace with barbed guitars and tumbling drum work. Decidedly more "rock" than anything else they played, the song shook the already enthusiastic capacity crowd into a sea of wiggling costumes and spilling drinks. The ONO performances I've caught in the past have always had a chaotic element to them, but have generally felt measured, as if chaos was simply another instrument in the group's arsenal. Their performance of "Veil" was terrifying and intoxicating for how unhinged it felt. As if anything could happen. Like I said, "possibilities." The high point of the night came at the conclusion of ONO's set, not for it ending, but for the reception it elicited. The audience exploded at the band, cheering long after the last hail of noise had fallen. Chicago is a weird fucking city, and ONO is a weird fucking band. Wednesday night was the perfect way to welcome the birth of this new record. Now let's just hope we don't have to wait 26 more years for another one.