Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: In the Red Records
Genre(s): Indie Rock
It may seem unlikely that a group would release one of their finest works 14 albums into their career, but for a group as completely restless and passionate as San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees, one would expect them only to get better with time. Since forming in 2004 as John Dwyer’s solo project as, the cartoony psych rock outfit has gone through various name changes, stylistic shifts, and eventually an evolution into a roaring full band experience, with some of the groups best work coming out during this era. With Putrifiers II, however, the group reaches a culmination of sorts, as the album constantly tests the groups’ limits while also further refining what they’ve achieved previously.
Garage rock is in the same dire straits as electro-pop, or any other genre that’s been lapped up by music writers over the past decade. Bands are a dime a dozen. And, in the case of most garage rock revivalists, personality has given way to how much echo and reverb one can slather over the vocals. San Francisco has become quite the hotbed of rock in its own right with bands like Ty Segall, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees shaking more action than the San Andreas Fault.
Less than a decade into making music together, the members of Thee Oh Sees have put out a staggering 14 albums. 2011 saw two stellar releases and just nine months later, here they come again with Putrifiers II, a left-turn from the direction of last year’s discs. A bit less slapdash punk and more laid-back vintage California sound, it feels like the wooziest acid-fueled daydreams of Brian Wilson.
At this past July's Pitchfork Music Festival, the scheduling gods played a cruel joke on fans of fuzzed-out San Francisco garage-rock by placing scene vets Thee Oh Sees and their prodigal-son pal Ty Segall on competing stages with overlapping set times. The irony was not lost on Thee Oh Sees' frontman John Dwyer, who, despite getting their show off to a righteously arse-kicking start, jokingly begged to the crowd after three songs "don't leave!" as Segall's set time approached. This simple, self-deprecating plea effectively delineated the difference between these two like-minded, furiously prolific acts.
One constant throughout Thee Oh Sees' 15-year-career is that you never quite know what to expect next. Whether veering between psychedelic surf pop, discordant folk or all out garage rock, there's something distinctly unique about John Dwyer's exceptionally prolific combo. With major emphasis being placed on the phrase 'exceptionally prolific'; Putrifiers II is actually Thee Oh Sees' fourteenth album, if one is to combine their various guises and line-ups.
Thee Oh SeesPutrifiers II[In The Red; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; September 19, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGJohn Dwyer and his fellow garage rockers in Thee Oh Sees are nothing if not dedicated. Throughout their career, they’ve burned through the genre with an almost Stooges-like fury. They’ve seemed far less concerned with overdubs and layers of irrelevant noise than with their own myopic goal of perfecting the immaculate brand of fuzzy Nuggets-inspired rock that fans have come to expect from them.
Originally conceived as a scrappy catch-all side project for a man who already had too many bands, Thee Oh Sees continue to epitomize scattered excess, with a sound that swings from grimy reverb-soaked rock to ghostly Appalachian folk to rougher, urbanized variations on such backwoods tropes. A lot of this is drawn from frontman John Dwyer’s experience with other groups (Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, the Hospitals), resulting in an aggregate style which has transformed a throwaway project into a form of creative apotheosis, something evinced by the band’s effusive output (six albums in the last four years). The recycling continues on Putrifiers II, a diverse burst of sampler rock united only by its rampant eclecticism and its unwavering affection for fuzz.
Is there anything Thee Oh Sees can do to surprise us anymore? Can John Dwyer's paint-huffing, blindfolded and dizzied muse still lead him to sonic territories that necessitate the slightly sub-Pollard level of prolificacy he has been struck with for the past eight years? Putrifiers II answers these questions with a resounding "yes. " Thee Oh Sees, rounded out these days by keyboardist/vocalist Brigid Dawson, guitarist Petey Dammit, and drummer Mike Shoun, have already dragged garage rock through 13-minute animalistic stomps (Warm Slime), woodwind-drenched creepy creature sing-a-long sessions (Castlemania), and windy Krautrock exercises (Carrion Crawler/The Dream), all within the span of two years. Makes sense, then, that Putrifiers II is the album where the band takes a bit of a breather, while still pushing the Oh Sees sound in new directions.
One could deem a band like Thee Oh Sees as “unoriginal” or “uncreative” based on sonic reasons alone. By taking from both the past and present to create their identifiably strange, stomp-worthy sound, Thee Oh Sees don’t forge any new musical paths. Their music is not a product of striving for the future, the present, or even the past for that matter, but rather a construction based on an already common mode of creative expression, which is often undermined by notions of “newness” formed on purely aesthetic terms.
John Dwyer’s San Francisco based group Thee Oh Sees (a play on the term Orange County) is prolific to say the least. Putrifiers II, the band’s latest release, is its 14th since its formation in 1997, if you count records under former band names such as OCS and the OhSees. And that’s not counting EPs, seven-inches, and compilations. So, yes, Dwyer and company have a lot of ideas, if not outright songs.
In 2011, genre-shattering rockers Thee Oh Sees put a fractured spin on pop with Castlemania, returning later in the year with the wild experimentation of Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP. A year later, Putrifiers II lands somewhere in between, combining those aesthetics while bounding forward with new ideas and influences. Produced by Chris Woodhouse, who's been at the band's side since 2008's The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In, Putrifiers II is as warm as Thee Oh Sees have ever sounded -- a particularly stark contrast to the raw, live mood of Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP -- which reflects the sense of restraint (by their standards, anyway) and maturity that permeates the record even in its heaviest moments.
THEE OH SEES join Ty Segall at the Hoxton on Wednesday (September 26). See listing. Rating: NNN Thee Oh Sees have never been easy to pin down. Though they've carved out a signature psychedelic garage sound that's unmistakably their own, the tireless San Francisco rockers have built a career out of exploring it from different angles: mind-bending noise rock on Warm Slime, sunny 60s pop on Castlemania, hard-driving throttle on Carrion Crawler/The Dream.
With over a dozen albums notched on Thee Oh Sees’ belt alone — the contents of which range from shambolic folk, to dreamy retro pop, eerily smoke-drenched psychedelic rock — it’s totally understandable that frontman John Dwyer might start to get a little scattered. Perhaps that’s why he’s named the new Thee Oh Sees album Putrifiers II without there ever having been a first Putrifiers. Though, it’s also entirely possible that the prolific San Franciscan did release an album by that name and it got lost in the deluge of 7?s and LPs released under Dwyer’s name, gathering dust behind the shelf of all of his own recordings.
Those musicians who write prolifically face the prospect of flooding their carefully carved niches with feckless underwritten, or overwritten filler. In almost all avenues of rock and pop music, churning out full length after full length with less than a year's breathing space between them, or arbitrarily, fewer than two global Kanye West incidents of arrogance between them, can be a hallmark of an outfit too keen to cash in. Whether they're too concerned with being forgotten or losing relevance, desperation yearns for that 'in vogue' stamp to save such acts from dollar bin obscurity.
This is San Francisco, CA garage punks Thee Oh Sees' 14th LP and third in the last two years. Vocalist John Dwyer's unmistakeable high-pitched shouts continue to shine through heavily fuzzed-out bass and overall tonal distortion. There's a sonic difference this time, with song experimentation and a dive into psychedelic pop-rock territory (and even a track that's heavily Krautrock-inspired).
John Dwyer and friends set to tape some 200-plus songs throughout the last five years, and Putrifiers II holds a few of the best. We’ve got “Flood’s New Light,” an uncharacteristically crisp and upbeat ditty of jangling tambourine, hooks of elated “ba, ba-ba-ba-ba” gibberish and the clearest stream of biking-through-Golden-Gate-Park-naked-on-solstice endorphins since their rainbow-melting cover art for Help. It’s about as campy as Thee Oh Sees are capable of getting—but don’t stress.
Filled with scattershot blasts of 60s pop and garage rock. Charles Ubaghs 2012 Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer is one of those musical journeymen who, like Mark E. Smith or, to a lesser extent, Jack White, occasionally pops up into the wider musical consciousness. Once there they refuse to budge, rolling out new album after new album, often under the guise of new band names and/or with a constantly rotating cast of support players.