Fire Note Says: Dwyer loads Thee Oh Sees back into the garage—and there’s a bit of time travel going on.
Album Review: To go over John Dwyer‘s catalogue it quite a task: Yikes! And the Hospitals, some Pink and Brown LP‘s, many Coachwhips LP’s, solo recordings under the Damaged Bug moniker, and so much Thee Oh Sees activity that it’s really hard to keep track of it all. So when it was announced that the Sees where going on hiatus it surprised no one—Dwyer seems to be a busy man, helping run Castle Face Records in addition to all his own recording. But low and behold Dwyer’s definition of hiatus (really “A WELL DESERVED BREAK AND A TRANSITIONAL PERIOD” to quote Dwyer directly) might be a tad skewed. In the midst of a brilliant streak (2011’s Carrion Crawler/The Dream, 2012’s Putrifiers II, and 2013’s Floating Coffin) April 19th, 2014 brings us the next yearly entry in Thee Oh Sees catalogue Drop. Recorded in a banana ripening warehouse, it features Chris Woodhouse (many instruments as well as engineering and mastering gigs including Drop) and contributions from Mikal Cronin, Greer McGettrick, and Casafis.
Drop isn’t any less exciting or driven than previous entries in the catalogue. It’s just one of the loosest so far, and definitely the most out of the three mentioned above. Carrion Crawler/The Dream thundered with the garage punk energy of tracks such as “Contraption/Soul Desert,” the exhilarating sheen of “The Dream,” and the gargantuan, shifting weight of “Robber Barons.” Putrifiers II leaned closer to Drop’s direction with the spooky sock-hopper “Will We Be Scared?” and the warmly wicked, Barrett influenced “Wicked Park.” Floating Coffin had more surprises with the huge, wooly and personal-favorite title “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster,” the hyper sleep hallucinations of the title track, and one of my favorite Sees tracks “Minotaur.” So why was a three album retrospective required to explain Drop? Well because Drop isn’t much like these albums. While the ragged, garage roots are always present, the one track that could tie these albums together has to be the opener, “Penetrating Eye.” Many of the other eight tracks stem from the vibe of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” Can’s “Mother Sky,” Nugget-infused nostalgia, British anthem “God Save the Queen,” and Aerosmith’s “Dream on?”
Drop does have its share of throwaways. The uninspired bounce of “Put Some Reverb on my Brother;” the title track, which is a fun pop rocker, but feels to squeaky clean for the Sees; and “Transparent World” has an out of nowhere B-side feel of The Flaming Lips Embryonic or The Terror. As much as these tracks feel scooped off the cutting room floor, Thee Oh Sees still know how to write a strong track. “Encrypted Bounce” has its share of variables over its almost six-minute span. The intro takes direct influences from Guided By Voices’ lo-fi with a healthy dose of Black Angles psych (Mikal Cronin on sax is also a nice touch). “Camera (Queer Sound)” is a mid tempo guitar trudge that spikes my interest with Dwyer’s exaggerated vocal harmonies, and “King’s Nose” takes best track on the album with its British-style keyboard and guitar arpeggios-The “Dream On” reference is apparent here. Finally, “The Lens” has Thee Oh Sees putting their Cronin collaboration to good use with a dark Beatle-esque beauty.
For all of Drop’s high highs it strikes an almost equal balance of interesting lows. Thee Oh Sees’ fans like me will always find something in their albums to appreciate; I’d just count this as the slightly subdued album in the catalogue. If you’re a garage fan looking for something new then I urge you to start with the aforementioned trio. Drop has its merits, but only if you’ve already had a solid introduction Thee Oh Sees.
Key Tracks: “Savage Victory,” “King’s Nose,” “The Lens”
Artists With Similar Fire: Jack Name / Mikal Cronin / White Fence
Thee Oh Sees Website
Thee Oh Sees Facebook
Castle Face Records
-Reviewed by Christopher Tahy