Call it prog, call it math, call it whatever you like, but I can’t think of many things more tedious than watching a bunch of dudes show off their chops. The shifting tempos, tricky unison lines, tight metallic riffs, and extreme dynamic leaps that mark Oxes (Monitor), the recent debut album by the Baltimore instrumental trio of the same name, are all red flags of chops rock, but the Oxes are all about thwarting expectations. While the groups they’re most often compared to, Don Caballero and the Fucking Champs, like to reduce the conventions of hard rock to a series of simple gestures, the Oxes prefer to build an elaborate house of cards and then rip it apart at the last possible moment. A propulsive chunka-chunka riff may seem headed for headbanging euphoria, but then drummer Prison will bust out with some time-eating rim shots and cowbell thwacks, and guitarists Dr. Windsor Castle and New York City follow suit, spinning a tangled web of six-string confusion that at times recalls U.S. Maple. The songs, such as they are, have goofy titles like “Horses Are OK” and “Riki Creem Calls This One ‘Chivas Regal,'” and live, the guitarists play through wireless amps, so that they’re free to prance about the entire club. And when they do return to the stage, the Oxes play on big black boxes, striking mocking guitar-hero poses. Rocket From the Crypt headlines. Friday, December 1, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Warenheim.