Thee Oh Sees - The Putrifiers II
Towering above Ty Segall, The Fresh & Onlys and Sonny and the Sunsets, casting a shadow along the Californian coastline greater than if you stood the Golden Gate Bridge on its end, is John Dwyer's mighty San Francisco psych-rock outfit Thee Oh Sees. More prolific than Sonny Smith, and more grizzled and experimental than Segall and co, Dwyer's band has been making lo-fi/garage/psych/Krautrock noise since the mid-90s, and since 2003 they've released around 12 studio albums with an evolving lineup of whom the mainstays are Dwyer and keyboardist/provider of melodies Brigid Dawson. None of these records have been called The Putrifiers so why the band's latest album is called The Putrifiers II I cannot tell you.
What I can say is that Dwyer has cited Scott Walker, The Velvet Underground, the Zombies and little-known Japanese cult act Les Rallizes Denudes as inspiration for this collection of songs and claims the record finds him in a mellower mood compared to previous releases. This isn't exactly evident on barnstorming electric opener 'Wax Face' which takes every great garage rock tune ever written and combines them into one excellent whole with a pounding beat, yelps of joy from Dwyer and some heroic riffing. Underpinning it all is a marvellous melody – in spite of Thee Oh Sees' chaotic nature and notoriously raucous live shows, there's always room for a killer tune. The swinging 'Hang a Picture' channels Elephant 6-style brass and fuzz bass, and a lolloping groove, to create one of Dwyer's cheeriest songs to date before 'So Nice' slows the mood down with doomy percussion and some viola scraping that recalls John Cale's work with the VU (something that's revisited later on the chiming and charming 'Goodbye Baby'), and that rolls into the ambient noise passage of 'Cloud #1'.
The metallic, chugging centrepiece of the album is the title track 'Putrifiers II'; a clash of garage hooks and Krautrock metronomy it takes the simplicity of both to create something quite wonderful in its mix of winsome, hippy-ish falsetto verses with the driving power of the chorus and an extended outtro that finds the band indulging in some synth noodling. The Scott Walker influence comes to the fore in 'Will We Be Scared?'; a swooning, off-kilter ballad that finds Dwyer in introspective mode and for all its out-of-tuneness it's really quite lovely. This is just a minor lull, though, before the thunderous psych-out of 'Lupine Dominus' pins you against the wall with its unbridled aggression.
The pastoral pocket symphony of 'Wicked Park', complete with brass, strings and woodwind shows off the harmonies of Dwyer and Dawson, and brings things to a gentle close in a track that's perhaps the most unlikely love song Thee Oh Sees have ever put their name to, given that the band have long immersed themselves in the noise and fury of the modern SF scene.
The Putrifiers II is Thee Oh Sees' most consistent record for a few years now and is evidence that numerous albums down the line they've got some new tricks up their sleeves, and still have the ability to make a standard garage tune sound utterly thrilling. A thoroughly enjoyable record, all told.
Purchase and listen
Thee Oh Sees are a remarkably prolific band, Carrion Caller / The Dream being the second album the California four piece have released this year. One would expect any other band to simply run out of steam and ideas but that simply isn't the case here. Their latest offering is jam packed full of ideas and variety, there's no copy and paste filler here, each track and each moment in each track is distinct, individual and noteworthy. [read more]