Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Oppenheimer is a glorious manimal. We could stop right there and what would have been provided is as apt of a description of this duo from Northern Ireland as any and enough mystical mystery to supply a dungeon of geeks. This manimal - half-animal and half-machine - could become an aggregate of the remains of Robert Moog, the same kinds of American road dust that another Irish band The Thrills gobbled up before it recorded its devoted to California debut album and the arms and sensibilities of the one and only Gary Numan fetching out for an adventure inside a bright and blistering city of lightbulbs and packed streets.
Rocky O'Reilly and Shaun Robinson have spent the better part of the year - and the tail-end of last - touring across the United States opening for They Might Be Giants, a group that wrote many early songs about things that only science-heads even understood, Stephen Hawking gobbly-gook, and have recently taken to penning odd numbers for children to learn their ABCs to. They don't fit into the strange, comedic rock sub-genre that the Giants have made themselves elder statesmen of, these Oppenheimers. What they do is they tackle their synthy rock and roll with brevity and a foundation of life experiences that couldn't have been lived inside a home, by those more inclined toward the introvert's idea of a good time. They don't write about shoehorns with teeth or Eskimos or quantum physics and the like.
They do take notice of the strict prohibitions involving the legal purchase of fireworks in New Jersey - and that's kind of quirky. They'd find a lot more of those kinds of states if they went looking, and it just makes you realize how states like Missouri and Indiana must make them feel upon crossing their state lines. The joyfulness probably cannot be contained. It wouldn't out of line for them to write and ode to the world's largest truck stop, a good bag of beef jerky or the gentle curve and curl of the top of a sexy ice cream cone. They love setting things off and then writing about that and they loving doing the same with the stagnant moments in life where a shape or a design can make you think things that didn't previously exist.
O'Reilly and Robinson come across as ramblin' men on these songs that slither with electrical currents and vibed out Speak and Spell vocal deliveries in points, things that give indications that there are computer chips in there with all of the fleshy motor skills. They are two men who have taken their particular idiosyncrasies and fascinations - not to mention their limitations - and kneaded them out like fresh dough. They've pounded it into a form that they can use and make into a much bigger sound than that of only two guys.
It's with the loyal assistance of their machines and contraptions that they're able to pull together an ambitious omelet of sounds that could have been heard on "Fame," a Jane Fonda workout video and in something that could have featured Christopher Walken dancing around a hotel like he was in a Thriller video. It captures - oddly enough - some of the same reference points that Matt Sharp was taking himself in when making the first two Rentals records, but then climbs a variation and gives the songs a little bite of lime.
Most of the tunes on the band's newest album Take The Whole Midrange And Boost It feel like they were meant to listened while wearing head and wristbands and keeping those legs moving - breaking considerable sweat. And that's when you realize that these two are all men because machines would never have to worry about sweating and exercise. They're always in shape.