REVIEW: Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
Posted: November 21, 2011 Filed under: Review
Thee Oh Sees never seem to take a break from music, with this record being the second record to be released this year alone, after May’s excellent Castlemania. The project started out as an outlet for frontman John Dwyer (of Coachwhips fame) to release experimental recordings, and as such, each record seems to have a very different sound to it, much like fellow San Francisco contemporary Ty Segall. Where Castlemania had a very much toned down feel to it, this album showcases the madness that can ensue when the band is at full force.
On first listen, Thee Oh Sees‘ new record, Carrion Crawl / The Dream can be a bit too much to take in. Bombastic arrangements and distortion foray around the record while front man John Dwyer‘s vocals intertwine with female vocalist and keyboardist Brigid Dawson to create a vocal harmonies very much reminiscent of the Pixies. Dwyer‘s voice varies wildly throughout the record; at times he’ll be yelping at high pitches (again, reminiscent of Black Francis) and other times he’ll have a fierce, gravelly tone.
The hazy lo-fi production of the record makes it feel like they’re playing it on the spot and helps the music engulf you. It has a certain raw quality that really echoes the energy that their live shows are renowned for. The album is riddled with riffs that feel almost contagious; this reflects on the garage-rock routes of the band. Dwyer’s distorted guitar solos throughout the album really accentuate this, and they’re a particular high-point of the penultimate track Crack in Your Eye.
Having two drummers in a band is a novelty that not many bands indulge in, but like bands such as Modest Mouse and Dananananaykroyd, Thee Oh Sees have taken full advantage of their two drummers on this record. They help create some rhythm segments that would be entirely impossible otherwise, and give the whole record an unforgiving pace and sense of rhythm.
The album’s title refers to two of the tracks on the album, the former being the opener and the latter being a distinct midpoint. Within seconds of the opening track, we hear traces of saxophones before it slowly builds up piece by piece to create a meandering clutter of distortion, while maintaining a constant rhythm that feels infectious. The latter is a seven-minute spectacle that is made up of fast-paced rhythm sections and littered with Dwyer‘s shrill vocals. Guitars surround the hazy vocals in a cloud of distorted bliss.
Chem-Farmer, a four-minute instrumental track on the album highlights the effectiveness that repetition can have, as well as showing the true genius of having two drummers. The track floats by with a surprisingly minimalist feel, compared to the rest of the album, with primarily just drums and guitars, and a sprinkling of keys to keep it going.
With Carrion Crawler / The Dream, Thee Oh Sees have produced a record that perfectly outlines what makes them great as a band. Not convinced by this album? Never mind, they’ll no doubt have another chance to sway your opinion just around the corner.