John Dwyer is one of the busiest guys in rock. He has so many variations of his band Thee Oh Sees that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. One of the latest, which he’s just calling Oh Sees, has put out a fine record of psychedelic art-punk called Orc.
The album opens with the crazy, frantic “The Static God” – which appears to be a song about the whirlwind nature of battlefield combat. Dwyer’s guitar is all over the place, but the chorus’ vocal hook has a wonderful pop twinge to it. “Nite Expo” has 1980’s video game synths leading it before Dwyer’s guitar kicks open the door and catches you by surprise. “Animated Violence” hits as hard as any metal track you’ve heard all year, both in the instrumentation (i.e., buzzsaw guitars and thunderous drums) and vocals and lyrics (revealing Dwyer’s love of Motorhead).
The longest track on the record (at 8:10), “Keys to the Castle,” is (on its surface, at least) about a bloody siege in a medieval fantasy kingdom. I’m sure it’s probably a metaphor about how we’re actually destroying ourselves in these castles of loneliness and disconnection we’ve built thanks to the internet, but maybe I’m overreaching and should just enough the fun freak-out of a tune that it is (especially when the violin and organ creep into it).
“Jettison,” with its early Mick Ronson-like guitar work, is one of the grooviest songs about death in a long while (“Who likes sugar in their coffin? The underground is twice as nice.”). “Cadaver Dog” encourages the generation behind Dwyer to be leaders and not followers and be self-reliant instead of clinging to potentially deadly illusions. “Drowned Beast” is a fuzzy salute to deepwater beast warriors who slay and eat everything in sight. Three fun instrumentals, “Paranoise,” “Cooling Tower,” and “Raw Optics” are included. The first has some subtle synths that might make you paranoid, the second is something you’d hear drifting out of a Mothers of Invention studio session, and the third (which closes the album) is a snappy blast of post-punk with a drum solo to boot.
Orc is a quirky, wild record, but you’d expect no less from Mr. Dwyer. He excels at making quirky, wild rock that can melt your face one moment and intrigue you the next.
Keep your mind open.
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