If you've heard of Hoboe, it's probably because of the gimmick. Either the fact that they're "a rock band with an oboe!" or they're a "rock band that plays Beethoven!" Considering they don't have any singalong-friendly, three-minute songs, or a whole lot of obvious reference points, that's not a bad ploy.
On their debut full-length, Travel by 7 Planes, released at the stroke of midnight, January 1, they sometimes don't make themselves all that accessible, that's for sure. There's some psychedelic rave-up for retro '60s lovers, but then comes Thom Metz's metallic guitar riffage. Zen Ben's lead vocals tend to the drone and monotone, while Bob Bergeron's are raspy and tuneless. They repeat lyrics until they feel like a bludgeon.
But, like the Nuclear Boots record from last year, there's a certain charm here. For one, the oboe is kind of cool. At times, like on "St. Staring," it's downright Middle Eastern. On "Nowhere Boat" it's more like Charlie Parker. Regardless, it's new and different.
And those vocals, they sort of grow on you. "Ghost in My Heart" winds up downright catchy, trending toward Radiohead at times (except for the guitar pyrotechnics), with at least one great lyric: "'Get off your ass,' you told me, and I elected to stay down." The slow-down to half-time works really well, too.
By the dueling bites of Nirvana's "Come as You Are" and Faith No More's "Epic" in the closing "Forfeit," I was much more sold than I thought I'd be at the opening oboe-fueled sludgefest. Much more.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRAVEL BY 7 PLANES | Released by Hoboe | at White's Cue Connection, in Gray | Feb. 24 | hoboeband.bandcamp.com