Osees Hurtle into Orbit with 'Intercepted Message'

BY Kate ShepherdPublished Aug 17, 2023

It should come as no surprise to followers of Osees — and their frontman and mastermind, John Dwyer — that the band would waste no time putting rubber to the road and releasing a new album so soon after their last. It should be even less shocking to find them exploring different territory on Intercepted Message, their sixth offering since emerging under their latest alias in 2020. 

As their ever-shifting monikers suggest, the erstwhile Oh Sees (previously the Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, and so on…if you've had trouble keeping track, you're not the only one) have a knack for shedding their skin and adopting a new, if not entirely unrecognizable form with each iteration. Their last record, 2022's A Foul Form, mined their hardcore and garage influences, reforging that raw ore into a blisteringly satisfying assault on the senses, and their latest outing is inflected with the same visceral punk rock urgency. 

But if its predecessor landed with the weight of a hunk of metal pulled up from the underground, this latest collection of tracks at times feels more like a dispatch beamed down from beyond our galaxy. A Dwyer-described pop record, it maintains the same frenetic pace as its predecessors, but here, grinding instrumentation is softened by crystalline synths, layering on the band's characteristically gale force performance style with the addition of a new wave sheen. 

Tracks like "Chaos Heart" and "Submerged Building" lean into their pop sensibilities, but nowhere is this approach more apparent than on the album's penultimate track "Always at Night," which wears its influences on its sleeve. Dreamy synths add a woozy, cinematic quality to a number that would feel right at home on an '80s prom mixtape. 

It's a rare languid moment on an album that otherwise gallops from track to track, starting with playfully frantic album-opener "Stunner," a tightly coiled spring launching into the subsequent numbers.Across the record, digital chirps and computerized flourishes accompany messages that warn against false narratives and the trappings of modern media. Dwyer's growling vocals on "Goon" and "Sleazoid Psycho" add a hint of menace, but his sense of humour is present throughout. 

As a whole, Intercepted Message is a turbulent but deliberate antidote to what Dwyer calls "tired times," and perhaps closes the loop on a creative cycle that started with the first Osees album, 2020's Protean Threat. Hints that it might represent what Dwyer has cryptically called Osees' "bookend sound" only add to the sense that this album represents a closed circuit creatively. To that end, as album-closing coda "Ladwp Hold" — an uncanny facsimile of a call centre recording — fades into silence, it feels like a natural ending, maybe even a prompt to hang up.

If history is any indicator, though, fans needn't worry about waiting too long for its sequel. And in the meantime, this record is both a rocket and a time machine, fusing influences so thoroughly that the sum of their parts are barely discernible, and offering both comfort in the familiar and an escape from our current time it hurtles you into orbit.
(In The Red)

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