Album Review: Putrifiers II (Thee Oh Sees)


Band:
Thee Oh Sees
Release:
September 18, 2012
Label:
In The Red

Comments: Thirteen albums deep, Thee Oh Sees made me think: just what will their next album sound like? If there were any indications before we got to preview some of the songs, it was that this was not a full band album. It was primarily written by John Dwyer in the role of multi-instrumental captain with help from long-time engineer Chris Woodhouse (drums) and Mikal Cronin (sax) just to name two. Dwyer’s done this before; actually, just last year with Castlemania. I love Castlemania’s wildly psychedelic moments and distinctive tape production. With the longest song clocking in at 3 minutes and 20 seconds, that record stands in contrast to the full band’s lengthy inclinations on Carrion Crawler/The Dream. With Putrifiers II, it sounds like Dwyer is interested in trying some new things, but with a keen remembrance of past successes. On the opener, “Wax Face,” I think of Carrion Crawler/The Dream, with its buzzing bass-line, fast pace, and array of effects for Dwyer’s guitar playing. The one thing that stands out on this track and stays that way for the rest of the album is Dwyer’s vocals. Dwyer doesn’t seem to be straining himself too much, just letting melodies stand as most distinct and the vocals as a creepy, yet squeaky clean and well-mixed after-thought. “Hang A Picture” is more Castlemania than Carrion, thanks to that acoustic guitar that Dwyer likes to bring out on record sometimes. It’s also easy to get lost in the sea of instrumentation. You might miss some horns if you aren’t paying attention. The fuzz sounds like a synthesizer, maybe it is, maybe it is.  “So Nice” is a stand-out track for me. “Remember a day when fat kids got high? A light twisted sky enlightening me.” With a Velvet Underground styling (eastern influence and all — is that a viola?), this song marches along, sounding much briefer than its near 4 minutes. Ya wouldn’t know this on record though with “Cloud #1” serving as a continuation/instrumental. “Flood’s New Light” – which has just made the online media rounds, receiving very high praise – seems to channel the supreme energies that resulted in Help, the 2009 release that had some “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” hooks to its own credit! You might even stop and think, ‘wait is that King Khan and the Shrines?’ at the beginning. I did. By “Putrifiers II,” Dwyer’s talent becomes abundantly clear. He makes some strange music (with some strange titles and some strange album art), but can so easily craft an identifiable pop gem, which I’d say this title track is. The flute and saxophone parts toward the close of the track are superb additions and slightly surprising – I wasn’t sure if Dwyer would break out into a full-out jam or some experimentally savvy finish or something of that nature. “Will We Be Scared” has me thinking Atlas Sound in more ways than one: 1) vocals (namely!) and 2) that old timer chord progression. Still, though, “Will” is distinctively Oh Sees, credit some extra psychedelic moments and choice picking. If I could see the band perform any of these Putrifiers II live, I’d bet “Lupine Dominus” would be one of them. It’s as ‘complete’ as they come on this record. It surprises me when it ends. “Goodbye Baby” is an odd-duck, culled from a long line of brief ’60s pop songs. “Wicked Park” is much the same way, but is just about a perfect closer. That acoustic guitar makes a comeback and for me I imagine Dwyer just strumming along on someone’s abandoned back porch. Just fun loving stuff that might serve as a nightcap to bizarre entertainment. With Putrifiers II, I feel like there will be a new breed of listeners that are just starting to get into Thee Oh Sees, perhaps because they caught them live after going to a show with a friend or saw the name on some high capacity music site. I sure hope they take this album for what it is — a few left and right turns within a familiar framework of past work. Great, awesome, cool, whatever, I feel it’s necessary to end this review with the mindset of how it started. What will #15 sound like? Not that it matters because I sense this will be getting many spins throughout the fall.

Top Three Tracks:
(1) Putrifiers II
(2) Will We Be Scared
(3) Flood’s New Light

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