Welcome to Sprudgefork Reviews, where we turn a critical ear to the latest musical releases from across the world of specialty coffee. And as is keeping with our reviewing tradition here at Sprudgefork, today’s selection has been penned by a reviewer who only listens to Radiohead and hates everything that isn’t Radiohead.
It stinks! How else can one truly describe the latest musical output by Onyx Coffee Lab? Cry For Yelp!, the new album from the Rogers, Arkansas coffee roaster, is four tracks of metal brutality, a genre I hate because it never incorporates any goofy instruments (or things that aren’t instruments but are used to that end). And what’s with all the screaming? Thom Yorke doesn’t need to yell to get his point across.
Over the course of the 12-minute album, Onyx blends elements of nu-metal, metalcore, black metal, and hardcore, and yet the coffee released alongside the album isn’t a blend at all, but instead is a single-origin washed heirloom variety from Demeka Becha in Ethiopia, released as a limited-edition Halloween offering. It’s thematically confusing and the genre-hopping feels forced and too much, unlike when Radiohead does it, which is genre-defining and brilliant.
Drawing from late-aughts scene bands—from which co-founder Jon Allen spent his formative years as the king scenester—Onyx employs multiple singers to split screaming and ranting duties. Literally. Anthony Rivera and Bear Soliven, who handle most of the scramz and cookie monsters, are the Warehouse Manager and Wholesale Account Manager for the company, respectively. They are joined on rants, narration, and guitar by Jesse Weegens, who built all the furniture for the cafes and is husband of Social Media Head Niki Weegans, to play over the tracks constructed, produced, and engineered by multi-instrumentalist Mike Bailey, who is not affiliated with Onyx in an employment capacity and has the best chance of going solo. Kati Rentz, cousin of Onyx roaster Seth Puckett, rounds out the line-up with some “upset mother” voiceover work.
Much like the namesake coffee itself—which tastes like apricot, floral honey, and yellow pear but doesn’t actually have any of those things in it—the lyrics of the four-song EP are completely derivative, reading like unfavorable reviews from disgruntled patrons. Now perhaps this is because all the words have in fact been cribbed from Onyx’s one-star Yelp reviews. But that’s just lazy writing. The entire album is, in short, derivative (hereby fulfilling my Sprudgefork obligation of using the word “derivative” twice in any review), unlike Radiohead’s most recent magnum opus that sounds like Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood trading farts for two hours, because the duo did actually take turns flatulating into a vintage RCA ribbon microphone for 120 minutes, stopping only to change the tape on the reel-to-reel and consume more (non-coffee) beans. It’s completely different and entirely genius.
Take for example, these uninspired lyrics from the track Stockholm Syndrome:
I love that the barista today behaved as if my order,
Was an inconvenience to her, and I love that,
When her other barista started asking about my order,
I couldn’t get halfway through what I wanted before she interrupted me with “I KNOW.”
And I love the empty,
Drab gazes of the milquetoast employees.
I’m a firm believer that the classier the joint,
The sh*++*r you should treat your clientele.
It helps to keep the riffraff out.
It helps to keep the riffraff out.
Everything is not in its right place.
The good news is that Cry For Yelp!, the soundless coffee and not the EP, is still available for a limited time via Onyx’s website. The bad news is that, in this digital age, Cry For Yelp!, the album, will live on in perpetuity on Spotify.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a Kid D+, at best.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.