Figuring out whether ‘A Weird Exits’ is an endgame or another progressive phase is just as impossible as deciphering its enigmatic title.
After a period of flux in 2013 where most of the core members dropped out, Thee Oh Sees’ band leader John Dwyer graduated beyond the noise-rock lo-fi-isms and sixties garage-band rawness which characterised much of the group’s earlier recordings. 2014’s ‘Drop’ album saw the prolific Californian rock-wizard explore a sharper, more streamlined production style, while last year’s ‘Mutilator Defeated at Last’ saw a new lineup pushing the psych-rock sound and sci-fi imagery to yet another spaced-out dimension. With a solidified structure of bass guitar, two drummers and Dywer providing guitar and yells, ‘A Weird Exits’ sees these intrepid rockers delve even deeper into this cosmic, surrealistic realm; maybe even into the light at the end of the warped, hallucinatory tunnel.
Opener ‘Dead Man’s Gun’ sees all the elements worm-hole together pretty quickly; insistent quick-fire drum fills, space-age guitar beeps, and Dwyer’s rhythmical half whispered, half snarled vocals spilling into layers of amped-up guitar fuzz. The furious reverb-laden riffs and tight, almost funk-like percussions of ‘Plastic Plant’, along with the punked-out bile of ‘Gelatinous Cube’, also keep the tempo somewhere around warp speed.
Arriving hot on the heels of the group’s euphoric home-turf ‘Live in San Francisco’ double LP, released on Dywer’s very own Castle Face imprint, this new addition to Thee Oh Sees’ lengthy discography is indicative of their fierce work-rate. A quick comparison also suggests the group might be bringing the jamming sessions of their live show to the studio format. The cyberspace interference and rhythm section backdrop of ‘Jammed Entrance’ is a pretty straightforward early indication of this. The sound expands as the record progresses, though, as sprawling instrumental breaks are offered up in the form of deep eerie orchestral in ‘Crawl Out From The Fall Out’, along with the wandering guitar notes and climactic synths of ‘Unwrap The Fiend Pt. 2’.
For all the interstellar boundary pushing, though, there’s occasionally a feeling of over-familiarity with this particular corner of the time-space continuum. The swelling guitar riff in ‘Ticklish Warrior’ seems to closely re-hash last year’s ‘Withered Hand’, with extra-vigorous drumming as the only addition. The general sense that this record is ‘Mutilator Defeated at Last’ Mark 2 is slightly erroneous, though. Thee Oh Sees’ sound has always evolved by degrees, and trying to figure out whether ‘A Weird Exits’ is an endgame or another progressive phase is just as impossible as deciphering its enigmatic title.
Thee Oh Sees exit on a high, though. ‘The Axis’ is an uncharacteristic love ballad laid on a bed of tremulous church organ and tenderly bent guitar notes, leaving space for a strangely uplifting, cracked-up guitar climax.
‘A Weird Exits’ is out now via Castle Face Records.
This Thee Oh Sees article was written by Tadgh Shiels, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Photo credit : mini van photography