To non-locals, ONO’s stunning Albino might have fallen from the sky, but to an enlightened and ever-growing bunch of Chicago heads the band is already full-on legend, and the release of their first recorded music since 1986 is a majorly epic landmark that needs no introduction. For the rest of y’all: ONO is a unit of transcendent noise-ma
king now in its fourth decade. Both notorious and neglected in their early years, ONO’s unholy bitches’ brew of noisy snarl, avant-garde R&B, gospel-heavy blackness, queer sensibility and extravagant, performance-art theatrics (they once played a concert at Navy Pier in which singer travis was dragged through the audience in a steel cage, naked but for a jockstrap) was in a whole ‘nuther galaxy from the macho Chicago punk scene that spawned them.
Reemerging in the late 00s with astonishing vehemence and an expansive, multi-generational lineup, they’ve been embraced by a more fertile and experimental Chicago scene, and are about to explode skulls internationally. travis has always referred to fellow-founder P. Michael ONO as the ‘leader of the band,’ but anchor might be more appropriate—P. Michael’s groundswelling bass and nasty, insectoid beats are unquestionably the glue that binds the sprawling noise. But then there’s travis, whose fierce brilliance carries echoes of punk prophets like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Gil Scott-Heron but is always pure, raging ONO. As for the rest of the band, check the sick, Beefheartian groove of Veil, or their revelatory cover of the Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, which manages to excise much of the song’s innate sentimentality while upping its sonic generosity, the wall-of-sound sprouting weeds and flowers in its cracks. ONO’s original mission statement (1980) runs through this music more truly and deeply than ever, so to quote it in full and let it speak for itself: ONO1980// Experimental Performance, NOISE, and Industrial Poetry Performance Band; Exploring Gospel’s Darkest Conflicts, Tragedies and Premises. Some deep-listening shit–beyond recommended!