Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Castle Face
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
Optimistically, I’ll state that guitars seem to be reacquainting themselves with independent rock music and the overt and abundant efforts to appeal to nostalgia, though this action still finds resonance, have lingered pretty well past their welcome. In the context of now, underground superhero John Dwyer and his band, Thee Oh Sees, could be viewed as indicative of this small shift, the band’s tongue speaking in psych-laced language not specifically limited in such a way so as to qualify them as yet another mindless throwback perfectly happy to binge on and shit out another batch of Nuggets while viewing life through Timothy Leary’s antiquated kaleidoscope. Following their excellent 2012 release, Putrifiers II EP, the band’s new album, Floating Coffin, is enthusiastic and strange, a perfect good-time balance of the artfully absurd and the sonically robust.
Thee Oh Sees dropped another heady psych joint with Floating Coffin. It stitches psychotic school dance vibes among the surf garage in a hurried splendor. And the songs are kinda long! Which rules! This record marks a maturity milestone for the band. They played tight and cohesively on Putrifiers II.
Welcome back heavy bass and the practically patented echoing falsettos because John Dwyer’s mellow Putrifiers II mood is gone. Tracks like “Maze Fancier” bring back the band’s frantic side, while slower numbers like “Night Crawler”—with its heart-rattling low end—give the album a more ominous tone. Floating Coffin ends with Dwyer singing, “I get sick at my work every day/There is no cure but to stay, stay away.” Sorry, John, we can’t all run away from our jobs, but at least now we have 40 minutes of catharsis.
Some day, when alien archaeologists are sorting through the layers of trash that will eventually cover and overrun the earth, I wonder what they’ll make of the random ephemera we dub as “art.” A book here, a record there, paintings, photographs, some paintings indistinguishable from photographs, etc. I wonder if they’ll know how to play a record. Maybe they’ll be the ones to have found the Golden Records on either Voyager 1 or 2; maybe they’ll have understood the directions (hahaha), following them like a kid cutting out a mask from a cereal box.
For John Dwyer’s “5-10-15-20” interview, the Oh Sees frontman talked about discovering the work of the Mexican psych prog band Los Dug Dug’s. The legend behind their 1972 album Smog, as Dwyer heard it, goes like this: Armando Nava went up to the mountains, took acid, and conceptualized that LP. “He came back and taught it to the band, and it is by far their biggest triumph,” Dwyer said.
From the tracks filling your hard-drive to the records monopolizing cubes in your Expedit shelving unit, Thee Oh Sees are an obscenely prolific band. Then there's their absurd touring schedule: an endless race around the world that means you've likely seen them a number of times. Like clockwork, 2013 is no different, with new LP Floating Coffin and another overwhelming tour schedule.
More focus, more drive, more purpose. Sounds like it could be a slogan from a bad car advert but, actually, it’s all the qualities contained within the latest in a run of seven albums in six years by San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees. Bandleader John Dwyer released early Ty Segall material, and on last year’s ‘Putrifiers II’ demonstrated a knack for masterful genre experimentation within the frazzled psychedelic realm in which Segall operates.
John Dwyer and his project, Thee Oh Sees, has been wonderfully impossible to pin down over 15 albums. There have always been different experiments with pop-folk and psychedelia and all kinds of fuzzy, eccentric noise play. But with last year’s Putrifiers II, the band found a concise mix of all its wide sounds. The fuzz was made all the fuzzier by giving it just a touch more polish, a touch more shape.
The ever prolific John Dwyer isn't the kind of guy to let the grass grow between his toes and his band Thee Oh Sees release albums the way they used to -- one a year with singles in between. The 2013 entry in their extensive catalog, Floating Coffin, is a weird one. Not because it is experimental, psychedelic, or full of lo-fi wildness; any one of those things would be par for the course.
San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees wear many faces, and wear them all well. Neil Young’s presence lingers from a distance overhead their deeply-buried folk roots, while the band members’ adoptive names such as Petey Dammit! echo a woozy Merry Pranksters — at least on paper. These crumpled facets result in a nails-tough act, whose setlists couple sepia-drenched ballads a la “Make Them Kiss” with satanic, Iggy-rivaling anthems, a mark of character that makes them quite difficult to follow.
More than a dozen albums into their career, Thee Oh Sees have well established their curriculum vitae: full-throttle, kraut-tinged psychedelic freakouts dished out with a level of profusion Lil B would applaud. Depending on how much you appreciate the simplistic machinery that keeps the garage-rock clock ticking, this fruitfulness translates one of two ways: a tortuous torrent of same old same old or a complex, evolving stream of consciousness. Lucky for us, the San Francisco outfit ventures into new territory with each LP it puts out.
After years of plying a twisted but uneven dalliance between psychedelia, garage punk, and noise, San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees distilled their focus to fine effect on 2011's Carrion Crawler/The Dream. That sweet streak continues on Floating Coffin, whose darker, more foreboding tone covers a lot of stylistic ground in its 10 tracks. Opener "I Come From the Mountain" echoes the epic intensity of The Dream with a frantic, driving buzz punctuated by echo-sodden whoops and hollers.