Band: Thee Oh Sees
Release: April 2013
Label: Castle Face Records
Thee Oh Sees have been cranking out album after album of tremendously crafted rock ‘n roll for a long while, to the point where keeping up with their output is a bit of a task in itself. They are the kind of band that intrigued me pretty early on in the discovery process so it was particularly entertaining to journey from release to release. Partially what makes Thee Oh Sees so endearing a group is the momentum and energy transferred between band and listener. You could say that about any group, I suppose, but if you like rock ‘n roll that stomps you, messes with you, has you moving, etc, etc, this band, as you’ve figured out, does the trick for you.
I look back on releases like Help and even Castlemania and realize those were hard-hitters, albeit in a more retro, more straightforward psych-infused manner. The band throughout Floating Coffin seems much more at ease to indulge in thicker, faster sounds, showcasing jams that aren’t as immediately catchy as say 2009’s “Rainbow” or “Flood’s New Light” from Putrifiers II. There’s almost a perennial sense of teasing on this record, but that teasing is almost always elevated to no bullshit rocking out. I’d say the most prominent example of this is on “No Spell,” which is by no means short on repetition, but hooks right into one of the band’s biggest and best riffs. The song’s only a little over four minutes, but it feels much longer (this is a good thing). Speaking of time, a pivotal moment comes on Floating Coffin‘s lengthiest tune — “Strawberries 1 + 2”. I say pivotal because in all earnestness, there are not many bands like Thee Oh Sees. I might be talking instrumentally – 12 stringer, guitar as bass, amps, and effects – but no, no, I’m talking sound. I sense a keen level of comfort the band has in all things drone – lingering parts, a wide assortment of effects, solos, and feedback … that kind of stuff. But this isn’t just sort of bob your head slowly drone, this is the kind of drone that could result in chaos and danger.
Thee Oh Sees are at their most intimidating on Floating Coffin when “Night Crawler” commences. It takes a while for the real scary stuff to appear, but it does in the form of alien vibes, glitches, haunting familiarity. A band would have to be really intense to make an album full o’ this kind of stuff; Thee Oh Sees’ particular creation reinforces the fact that they aren’t shy about messing with all sorts of tones, attitudes, and approaches to making rock and roll. I find myself really into this versatility, in addition to having a weird sense of trust in the group’s ability to satisfy. That’s why it is also kind of odd to talk about how I exactly feel, as a lot of that is owed to a relatively recent acquaintance (2009) to a band that has experience greater than my age. So it sounds messed up to say “Tunnel Time” is like Coachwhips with flutes, but that’s what I’m thinking. The closing song – “Minotaur” – was our first taste of this record, the first to be released, and it is beautifully arranged, carefree, and honest. The contrast between Dwyer’s singing style and the rest of the music is amusing and awesome.
I often used to compare albums in my reviews, but Floating Coffin seems to stand on its own turf, a few blocks from civilization (with Warm Slime in nearest vicinity). The album truly is impressive in scope and delivers on several levels. It is not truly mind-blowing either, but who asked for that! Thee Oh Sees are not ones to disappoint and what they’ve done here continues that legacy. The band live is a crazed monster. I am curious to see if they are going to try out some of the more peculiar tracks showcased on Floating Coffin – the ones that might be plenty random in an Oh Sees set. Not like that really matters for a band that rules hard like this one.