Release Date: Apr 28, 2009
Record label: In The Red
Genre(s): Rock, Punk
"Tight" isn't a word that fits comfortably when describing Thee Oh Sees, but on Help, the second full-length effort from John Dwyer's garage psych marauders, the band has certainly learned to find order amidst chaos in a manner that eluded them on their 2008 debut The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In. The basic approach on Help isn't particularly different than on Thee Oh Sees' first effort -- the guitars are thick, ringing, and dripping with reverb and distortion, the rhythm section pounds away in a simple but relentless fashion, the massed vocals approximate vintage California-style harmonies in the midst of a trip on dirty acid, and the songs take traditional garage rock changes and bend them a wee bit as the production runs them through just enough low-budget studio trickery until they resemble a paisley nightmare oozing out of your speakers. Still, while most of the tunes on Help sound as purposefully messed up as ever, they're just a bit tidier and more straightforward here, and the stronger framework makes a positive difference.
When we had to go to the record store to get music, I liked buying albums I knew nothing about based only on their cover art. There was something exciting to me about rolling the dice on a band after simply connecting with their visual aesthetic. Of course, that kind of mystery doesn't exist anymore-- we could feasibly know loads about a group before hearing a note of their music-- but if it did, I think I would take one look at the hand-drawn purple bat and rainbow adorning Thee Oh Sees' Help and just know it was going to be rad.
If there’s any continuity among of the phonetically-linked Oh Sees projects (at various times, OCS, The Ohsees), it’s woozy harmony. For years, it was John Dwyer’s bedroom project of sparse guitars, and he double-tracked harmonies with himself. But since his pawnshop-rock bastards Coachwhips ended, Oh Sees has filled out into a full band, and on Help, vocal duties are shared instead of doubled.
Consider John Dwyer's musical career an evolutionary chart. In Pink & Brown, he pounded out late-1990s Neander-noise. With the Coachwhips, he fashioned fast blasts of garage punk. As the OCS and Ohsees, his bedroom backlog yielded gauzy reverb folk. Now, settled into his current simian brain, comes ….