Release Date: Aug 17, 2018
Record label: Castle Face
Having hit the twentieth (!) year and album mark last year with the reasonably downplayed Memory of a Cut Off Head John Dwyer's (formerly Thee) Oh Sees it seems are ready to enter the next chapter of their storied career. Previous keyboardists and vocalist Brigid Dawson made her full-time return to the band on Memory writing much of it with Dwyer, which proved to be a fruitful reunion as she now once again fronts on the band's latest, the prog-rock epic Smote Reverser. Keyboardist Tom Dolas (who played on Memory) has also returned, meaning Oh Sees are currently a six-headed beast, not too dissimilar to the one adorning this album's artwork.
But it doesn't belong to some Download band. On their latest album, Oh Sees reinforce the idea that they don't want to be pegged to one genre - or idea, or philosophy. Smote Reverser is not so much a new album from Oh Sees as it is a new album from a new incarnation of Oh Sees - a culmination of the ideas and the works of the band also known as Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, Oh Sees, OCS and The Ohsees.
Progressive rock hasn't been cool since the punk movement exploded and Rick Wakeman was laughed out of town in his radiant cape. Since that day, there have been limited options for musicians who still harbour the desire to explore their own prog tendencies. They can either play prog rock, unashamedly so and as unhip as it is, risk mockery from critics but potentially siphon off a few fans from Hemel Hempstead's Porcupine Tree.
For the past half decade or so, we've seen the great unravelling of (Thee) Oh Sees. That is less a comment on the band's sudden dissolution in 2013 than the aesthetic disintegration that's transpired ever since ringleader John Dwyer started rebuilding his group in 2014 around bassist Tim Hellman and a double-drummer tandem (now made up of Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone). But even as recent Oh Sees albums fell under the spell of Afrobeat, cosmic jazz, and proggy synth soundtracks, Dwyer seemingly recognizes that each new record needs to include its fair share of warp-speed rock-outs to keep his circle-pit faithful satisfied.
Like death and taxes, Oh Sees albums are inevitabilities. But John Dwyer doesn't let this stop him from building anticipation for each album. By the time the first single and artwork have been revealed for a new album, fans are overrun with giddiness, not beleaguered by the pace at which Dwyer works. 'Overthrown,' the first single off the band's latest, Smote Reverser, suggested an Oh Sees album for the ages and for the rages.
The cult heroes' 21st album shows they've still not run out of ideas, but could do with some editing How does Oh Sees leader John Dwyer do it? In 15 years, with varying line-ups and slightly differing band names (OCS, The Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees), the musician has put out 20 studio albums that have helped steadily lift him to his status as probably the biggest cult star in rock’s underground world. Despite his rate of output, he’s never repeated himself and, regardless of your feelings towards his tunes, you could never accuse him of slacking off on the experimentation front. ‘Smote Reverser’, Oh Sees’ 21st studio LP, continues that commitment to doing something different- none more so than on ‘Overthrown’.
Ultimately it doesn't matter if you like the latest album by the Oh Sees, Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, The Ohsees, The Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees or whatever they're currently called as there will probably be a new one in a few months anyway. Since forming in 1997 John Dwyer has released 20 studio albums and as many singles and EPs under the above names. Now his Oh Sees moniker have released their new album 'Smote Reverser'.