Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thee Oh Sees Drop & Show # 508

After announcing that the band will be taking a hiatus last year, Thee Oh Sees released their eighth full-length album at the end of April. Entitled Drop, the album brings in an intense focus to the band’s already established San Franciscan psychedelic garage sound. There’s gritty garage sounds with scruffy guitars, psychedelic solos, a bit of kraut rock and elements found on 2012’s Putrifiers II and 2013’s Floating Coffin.

“Penetrating Eye” opens with a dungeon-like synthesizer that sounds as if it was lifted from an 8-bit NES video game, before scuzzy, sludgy guitars, drums and vocals kick in. The lurking and spooky synthesizer sounds as if it came out of one of the dungeon levels found in the original Legend of Zelda video game for NES. Each song on this nine-track album is a battle, with a myriad of murky and delightful garage noises ranging from the psychedelic sounds of 60’s garage nuggets compilations, the sounds of early Pink Floyd, to the intensity of the solos once performed by The Stooges. “Penetrating Eye” is one of the heaviest songs in the bands catalog to date, featuring catchy “la la la la la la’s” throughout. There is also a pop element to this track and it starts the album in a somewhat symbolic way. The song seems to start off the album in a sound not unlike the noises explored on the track “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” from 2013’s Floating Coffin album. The penetrating eye discussed in this track lurks all over this album bringing along a spooky goodness, that only John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees could deliver.

“Encrypted Bounce” the second track on Drop, is also the longest song found on this release. Musically the song sounds like a battle of Beatles sounding backwards guitars, early Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, and Thee Oh Sees unrelenting punk psych energy, one that was displayed in excellent form on 2011’s Carrion Crawler/The Dream. Lyrically the song seems to reference San Francisco, perhaps it is an ode to the city, as John Dwyer recently relocated to Los Angeles. “Savage Victory” begins with its prominent tension filled bassline and bouncy snare drum, before being flooded with synthesizer and ultra fuzzy guitars as sharp as a knife’s edge. The lyrics in this song which emphasize a victory by attack with words such as “I will wait for you someplace/Where you can’t see my face” this, in conjunction with the lyrics found in “Put Some Reverb On My Brother” “I can’t see you/you can’t see me/I can’t feel you/you can’t feel me” both contrast with a feeling of hiding in waiting. The later track could also reference Dwyer’s San Francisco garage rock brethren Ty Segall. The album’s title track “Drop” attacks with a garage punk romp, while lyrics such as “I don’t expect to see them again” in the opening verses of this song and “I expect to see them again” in last verse of this song, could perhaps indicate the current situation of Thee Oh Sees hiatus. It was however announced that Thee Oh Sees would perform live shows as a three piece in May 2014, minus Brigid Dawson and Petey Dammit.

The song “Camera (Queer Sound)” brings us to just about the half way point of Drop, which was for the most part recorded with John Dwyer on most of the instrumentation in a banana ripening warehouse. The catchy vocal dualities and harmonies of Brigid Dawson are absent here, as are the frenetic guitar stylings of Petey Dammit, but there are contributions from Chris Woodhouse on drums, Mikal Cronin on saxophone and others. It is at this point when “Camera (Queer Sound)” comes in that if we were really in a dungeon in the original Legend of Zelda for NES, that things would get more quiet and intense. As such, the lyrics in the pop fuzz chorus of this track seem to portray a search for an identity with words “I try to wear the faces of other men/But Life is a camera/And I cannot get near ya” and also have been said to be a comment on the infamous selfie. “Transparent World” is a song of building noises consisting of heavy synthesizers, bass and inaudible vocals sounds. It is like the final battle in the dungeon for our quest in this Legend of Zelda like comparison before we are taken to the conclusion that would be the song “The Lens”. This cello driven song is much indebted to The Beatles as the catchy chorus draws an undeniable influence. The lyrics such as “And then we both arrive/At the same time again/Then we’re both alive at the same time again” and ”You look through the lens today/All is cracked and hazy/here, there/hand in hand we will survive” emphasize a victory of sorts here. But John Dwyer may also be reflecting on Thee Oh Sees past and present. “The Lens” takes us to the end of our quest through the metaphorical dungeon from the depths of a world of psychedelic garage sounds provided by Thee Oh Sees. Drop is victorious in its savage, primitive and unrelenting garage psych riffs, while the pop elements sink in deeper amongst the synthesizers and crude album cover artwork. But as Drop ends, we know that at the end of this quest another begins.

The Play List:

1. Thee Mighty Caesars - I Was Led To Believe
2. The Castaways - Liar, Liar
3. Guitar Army - Let’s Go To The Beach
4. The Hellacopters - Born Broke
5. Sonic Avenues - Waiting For A Change
6. The Challengers - Asphalt Spinner
7. Nick Lowe - 36 Inches High
8. Katlina Cowan - Cocaine
8. The Zellots - Soldier
9. Sheep Look Up - Civil Disobedience
10. The Legend Killers - Strychnine
11. Paul Jacobs - Drug Theaters
12. Paul Jacobs - Morphine Daydream
13. Survival Knife - Fell Runner
14. Pink Mountaintops - Ambulance City
15. Lou Reed - Sally Can’t Dance
16. Andre Williams - Pass The Biscuits, Please
17. The Who - Don’t Look Away
18. The Meltones - You’ll Never Surf In This Town Again
19. Black Lips - Smiling
20. The Bears - Frank Nitty
21. Thee Oh Sees - Savage Victory
22. Thee Oh Sees - Drop

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for May 13. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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