Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II

Rating: ★★★★½

Putrifiers II is the third or fourth LP in the last two years from Thee Oh Sees, depending upon whether or not you’d like to include their single collection.  They’re hard-working, clearly, but what impresses me is that the tiniest details alter the sound from record to record, though Castlemania is a bit of an outlier.  Again, the group’s giving you a psychedelic garage rock run with a bit of punk rock energy kicking down the doors.

As soon as you turn on Purtifiers II  you better turn it up loud because “Wax Face” is best listened  to at high volumes.  After opening with a playful twinkling guitar line, the band jumps on the distortion pedals and bangs out a stomping number.  Interestingly, the vocals almost seem an afterthought here, coming off as an extra instrument rather than a pertinent piece of storytelling. But, that’s the opposite case with “Hang A Picture,” the following tune, which definitely has Thee Oh Sees playing to their strengths as tight knit unit; this track has that same pscch stomp feel, but it’s as if the group’s rocking this one out together around a campfire.

I know it’s hard to see this band getting much better than they already are, but with tracks like “Flood’s New Light,” it’s clear that they’re not resting on their laurels, even if you can see the lineage between the various records.  The opening bass line completely won me over, and then the horn jumped in, on came the vocals, creating one of the catchiest tunes I think I’ve heard from Thee Oh Sees.  On the chorus you’ll find a little monosyllabic lyric, continuously improving the delectable flavor apparent on this tune.  Speaking of that chorus, it sort of indicates a slight R&B sensation that also seems to occasionally pop its head up here.  “Will We Be Scared” might not come across as classic Motown, but the guitar work, the airy vocals and the way the bass walks through the tune really gives you a nice groove.

Ultimately, the differentiation on Putrifiers II is what makes it a winning collection of tunes. The album’s title track (“Putrifers II”) begins with this slow-handed light pop element, but as the guitars and drums get going, there’s a layer of depth that provides you with a darker sensation.  However, the restraint is where the band seems to really switch things up…I kept expecting them to fully blast off, but they don’t go that route.  There’s an increased pace, but it’s not as in your face as one would expect, if you’re familiar with the previous works of the group. Then you get the contrast with the folk-ish album closer, “Wicked Park.”  It feels like something the Kinks might have put together early on in their career–it’s definitely a step away from the band’s garage-psych blend, and the record is better off for it.

If you’re a fan of Thee Oh Sees, you can pretty throw all your expectations out the window when you pick up your copy of Putrifiers II.  Yes, it does have hints of the band’s storied sound, but at the same time they never seem to stay in one place for too long.  That’s what makes them so dynamic, both live and on record, which will only continue to grow their fame.  I’m continuously impressed with the group’s work, and once you get your hands on this, you will be too.

 

Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Rating: ★★★½ ·

If you already found yourself enjoying this year’s Castlemania, you might want to preview the newest release from Thee Oh Sees, as it’s not quite the same animal, but equally as important in the band’s catalogue.  Carrion Crawler/The Dream is really comprised of two EPs, and while their most recent work focused on short psych sprints, this one definitely has a distinguished jamming quality, akin to their live setting.

“Carrion Crawler” begins this affair with a brief exercise in strutting about, musically, before the band moves into their psychedelic wiggle, with chords being strummed rapidly as Thee Oh Sees find themselves getting into their groove.  While previous efforts, at least in 2011, placed emphasis on the vocals, this time around they just come off as part of the mix.  It might not be the most convincing recording, but it definitely gives you the image of the band’s phenomenal live show.  You’re pretty much going to find Carrion Crawler/The Dream revolving around this realm for the first few tracks of the album, that is until you get into the night-tinged instrumental, “Chem Farmer.”  From here, you’ll find yourself getting into the classic sound, if we could call it that, of the band.

“Opposition” is a furious bit of jangle pop, with a catchy vocal delivery, similar to the works on Castlemania, though there’s a bit more grit to this one.  Still, you can’t help but hear the influence such songs have on the group’s live performance, with bits of guitar meandering in contrast to the rest of the group, providing that ramshackle joy Thee Oh Sees bring to the stage. Similarly, “Wrong Idea” has a stomping rhythm that seems to bounce the listener in the right direction, before the rest of the track sort of goes into a sort of psychedelic haunting.  But, what’s important is imagining the band banging this one out, as those guitar lines are clearly made for audio destruction.

Personally, I find the latter half of the record to be the most appealing, at least when putting this record on repeat for continuous spins.  Songs like “Crushed Grass” display the band’s vibrance, with John Dwyer’s enthusiastic yelps blasting through the speakers.  Even as the feedback fills your ears and the chugging guitars cut through on the back side of the track, you can still hear what makes this band so enjoyable, on record or at the local club. They’re dark, yet playful, which owes to what we must be led to believe is an exceptional amount of work  honing their skills.

Carrion Crawler/The Dream definitely provides listeners with an entirely different view point than what was offered up earlier in the year with Castlemania. That being said, it seems to fill the gaps between studio album and live show, bringing those with careful ears the knowledge that Thee Oh Sees are on the track to surpassing all their peers.  Just another step in the right direction for one of my favorite groups.

Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania

Rating: ★★★½ ·

A bit of time has passed since Thee Oh Sees released Warm Slime, but we’ve not got the first of two 2011 releases from the band, Castlemania.  Apparently the band dedicated a lot of time in the studio to the recording of this record, and while the songs are kept short, the extra layers definitely provide a great deal of depth to the band’s sound.  It’s a record full of twists and turns, all of which leave us asking, what can the band do next?

“I Need Seed” begins our affair with bit of a repetitive stomp from the group, though that’s a good thing here.  Call and response lyrics, make this a catchy ditty, but it’s not too polished, keeping the live element of the band on the studio recording.  Then you’ll move into a bit of a boogie with “Corprophagist,” which blasts off with horns and such amid the cacophonous vocals evident here.  It’s an energetic beginning to Castlemania, and one that sets the tone for the places Thee Oh Sees will go.

Studio effects are definitely apparent by the time you get to “Corrupted Coffin,” which features some sort of organ, atop all the horn work.  Slower pacing creates the space for the band to bring their own noisy style into the area where one might normally place a chorus.  But, this track doesn’t prepare you for the following number, “Pleasure Blimp.”  You can see similarities with Sonny and the Sunsets, using that old barroom country effect to create a sing-a-long melody, though their version is filled with a little less clarity in regards to the sound of the vocals.  Different band, different spin.

Even with all the twists and turns, you can easily follow the musical path on Castlemania, which, personally, contains some of my favorite tracks. “Whipping Continues” shares some style with the opener, providing you with a bit of a stomp, but it’s the melodious vocals, aside from the baritone in the background, that really reach out and suck you into the song.  Wild yelps give you hints at how Thee Oh Sees kick it out live, combining great studio moments with live attributes.  You’ll then find a bit of swagger with “AA Warm Breeze,” which uses varying vocal approaches, not to mention a mean little harmonica soloing in the various spots.  Then the band get as close as they probably ever will to a nice ballad with “If I Stay Too Long.”  Everything about this track should make you a fan of the band, or at the very least the song.  There’s that bit of discordant noise, yet the chorus with its dominating female vocal illustrates just what a bit of focus in the studio can do for an already incredible band. Probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.

There’s sixteen songs on Castlemania, and not a one of them could be considered a bad track. From the minute the whole record kicks off, Thee Oh Sees are taking a new approach; they’re combining quality recording time with their live energy.  At times, you feel as if you’re right there stomping your feet along at your favorite venue, and at other points you’re glad the band had the wherewithal to give a little bit more depth to their powerful sound.  In the end, you’re not going to go wrong spending a lot of time here.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/INeedSeed.mp3]

Download: Thee Oh Sees – I Need Seed [MP3]

Castelmania is out now on In the Red Records!

New Jam from Thee Oh Sees

One of the groups we’ve really been into over the last few years, which was reinforced by their solid SXSW sets this year is about to release a new record.  Thee Oh Sees are putting out their new album, Castlemania (not to be confused with Castlevania), on In the Red Records on June 14th. Surprisingly, this first listen has a lot less anxious chainsaw guitar, and more of a folky little swagger to it, though I’ll admit that the change of pace and styles is never something these guys seem to steer away from.  All in all, seems like an excellent way to get people excited, as this a pretty solid little number.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/INeedSeed.mp3]

Download: Thee Oh Sees – I Need Seed [MP3]