The ever prolific John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees decided in 2013 that operating one brilliant garage pysch band wasn't enough to keep him occupied, so he started working on a solo album of synth pop weirdness under the name Damaged Bug. The first album to be unleashed, 2014's Hubba Bubba, was a good, weird, and messy exploration of synths and sound. A fine start for sure, but the second transmission, 2015's Cold Hot Plumbs, blows it away in both the sound and songs categories.
The newest, pretty wild album from Thee Oh Sees has only just hot-rodded red-eyed and bulging over the horizon, and there’s already more scuttling John Dwyer depravity to make all your scratches itch: a second album from his rickety & ramshackle synth-pop side project (I think that’s the official designation), Damaged Bug. Even better, Cold Hot Plumbs cobbles the weird mechanical detritus from last year’s dank and gloomy Hubba Bubba into something capable of using its spindly appendages to pry open your eyelids and shine shafts of colorful light directly through to your brain’s misfiring synapses. Sometimes it even goes down smooth and sweet (you’ll develop any complications with time).
With John Dwyer now the only constant member of Thee Oh Sees, and with that band’s records increasingly branching into mellower directions, the sound of Damaged Bug, his synth-heavy solo project, has become less of a sharp right-turn for the singer and more of a parallel. This second album, crammed into the miniscule gap between Oh Sees records, shares many of the more organic tendencies of Thee Oh Sees’ last album, Drop: there are fake strings, real violins and slower tempos, and occasional bursts into the Can school of motorik rock. The only glaring difference comes in the form of short, organ instrumentals dotted here and there.
There are relentless artists and then there’s John Dwyer, who is most famously known as the frontman for San Francisco garage rock juggernauts Thee Oh Sees. Dwyer works on music at a unfathomable clip. Thee Oh Sees seem to release an album every year (including one a few weeks ago) despite teasing an extended hiatus, and last year Dwyer reunited with his early 2000s group Coachwhips.