Published Aug 12, 2016It's been nearly 20 years of fuzz and frenzied freak-outs and relentlessly energetic live shows, but Thee Oh Sees continue to bring it, hard. A Weird Exits (an awkward and wonderfully odd title) is the 11th LP from garage-psych savant John Dwyer and his fellow Seers, and this one may be the most proper representation of their live shows and tendency to groove out that they've set loose into the world to date.
Starting off with that familiar ferocity, "Dead Man's Gun" finds Dwyer's vocals switching from a sweet, almost hesitant delivery to a definitive growl atop drums and guitars that mimic the switch, breaking to allow a quick mind melt from Dwyer's guitar. "Ticklish Warrior" (how's that for a song title?) is as fun as the title suggests, a delectable non-stop dish with a serious riff and doubled-up drums from the duo of Dan Rincon and Ryan Moutinho.
From there, A Weird Exits leads you down a side road, where the songs sounds less like songs (no decisive starts and ends, no notable structure) than sprawling, jammed-out journeys, elongated by minutes at a time. The wordless, whirling "Jammed Entrance" is equal parts an argument between robots (there are some R2D2 tones in there), someone desperately trying to get a point through using Morse code, or a security breach at a space station, all thanks to Oh Sees mainstay Brigid Dawson on the keys.
"Plastic Plant" is an ultimate groover, though, Dwyer's guitar squealing when he's not shredding, doubled up drums keeping things grounded, Tim Hellman spreading his rounded bass tones on nice and thick, exiting with an exhale, every element of the tune working together. "Gelatinous Cube" crunches to life with an opening drone akin to that of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," and marks the beginning of the record's turn to dynamics. Sonic contrasts abound here, from Dwyer's playing, freely fuzzed, to the structured chords that back some wild soloing, to toning it all back to allow room for catchy vocals. "Unwrap the Fiend Pt. 2" (What became of Pt. 1?) brings back more of Dwyer's cheeky guitar squeals, sitting above a melody that bounces from sneaking to the softest breakdown Exits has to offer, each new moment seamlessly melting into the next.
The monumental seven-plus-minute "Crawl Out From the Fallout" starts off with a slow swell of strings and is druggy without being lackadaisical, a hypnotic dive into slow-driven psych. Melancholic and yearning album ender "The Axis" rolls in afterwards, pairing an organ-led melody with rather disheartened lyrics that eventually get lost in a manic haze of distorted guitar: "Don't you know how much I don't love you? / Don't you know how much I don't care? / And can't you see how much I don't need you / Just like you were never really there."
Time has been kind to Thee Oh Sees, who remain proper royalty in the garage rock universe and manage to shape-shift without losing their boisterous and impactful delivery. May they continue to be loud and proud of it, and may Dwyer continue to do as he damn well pleases — he always hits our ears in the right way. (Castle Face)