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Thee Oh Sees’ Garage-Rock Endures on Sorta-Surprise Release ‘Drop’

SPIN Rating: 6 of 10
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Label: Castle Face

Like a liquor store within stumbling distance, garage-rock is there when you need it, and despite what crate-diggers might’ve feared when the Hives booked studio time with Pharrell, it hasn’t changed much. You don’t have to be a psychedelic guitar freak to want to check in once in a while with someone as prolific as John Dwyer, who coaxes truly electric-toothbrush-esque frequencies out of his guitar on Thee Oh Sees‘ 13th album’s opener, “Penetration Eye.” Over Drop‘s nine tracks he freaks out over a more mature, contained sense of rhythm than the motorik runaway train beats of say, 2011’s Carrion Crawler/The Dream..

Lacking the Plant-worshipping pipes of a forebear like Dead Moon’s Fred Cole, Dwyer squishes his voice into a faint falsetto a la Clinic’s surgical-masked Ade Blackburn on the relaxed “Encrypted Bounce (A Queer Song).” Typically, the guitar splatters all over it for color and verve while horns and either real or fake Mysterians organ interject. Sometimes the guitar sounds backward when it isn’t. Rarely does it sound like one person squeaking out notes in succession—more like a bunch of dudes filling a tape with improvisations, rewinding to the cool parts and haranguing some hapless studio engineer to razorblade it all together. This doesn’t mean Dwyer doesn’t occasionally muster up a real tune—the two-and-a-half minute “Drop” sounds like what would happen if the Knickerbockers were requested to overdub a guitar solo with a vacuum cleaner. Kinda neat, in a sloppy way. 

But he’s mostly about groove and feel: He wants you to feel the itch and pops of the vinyl you’re probably not listening to this music on. Still, even mp3 rogues can enjoy this half-hour cinderblock Dwyer surprise-released to assure the faithful he’s not ending the band as hinted at last year, although don’t invest too much into the cello-led closer: “Camera” has a riff lunkheaded enough to get blocked on Tinder.