DIFFERENT versions of OHO and its offshoot bands (Dark Side, Trixy & the Testones, Food for Worms) have been rattling around Baltimore since 1972; they have won enthusiasm from underground rock magazines like Trouser Press and Bomp but have found little commercial success. OHO began as Baltimore's anarchic version of early Pink Floyd and went through phases that were compared to the Ramones, Alice Cooper, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie.
Now with new lead singer Grace Hearn dominating the band's sound, the newest OHO album, "Audition," sounds like Kate Bush backed by the B-52's -- that is, siren art-rock vocals over techno-rock party tracks. Guitarist Jay Graboski is the only founding member still in the band, and he wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs. These are the songs that made the band one of eight finalists in Musician magazine's 1989 Best Unsigned Band contest, and they are marked by jagged funk rhythms, existentialist pondering and sudden shifts in harmony and mood. Unfortunately, none of the melodies really stick in one's memory and few of the lyrics resemble the way real people actually talk.
The best thing about "Audition" is how good it sounds. Hearn has a piercing, commanding soprano, and she is driven forward by rhythms that keep shifting patterns without ever losing their insistent momentum. Steve Carr is not only the band's bassist but also the album's producer/engineer, and his ability to make every element within Graboski's intricate arrangements shine without sounding cluttered is most impressive.
OHO -- "Audition" (OHO). Appearing Saturday with the Q at the Bayou.