Coachwhips and Thee Oh Sees

(Copyright © 2004-2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (2003) , 7/10
Bangers Vs Fuckers (2004), 6.5/10 (mini)
Peanut Butter and Jelly (2005), 5/10
Thee Oh Sees: Sucks Blood (2007), 4/10
Thee Oh Sees: The Masters's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In (2008), 5/10
Thee Oh Sees: Help (2009), 6/10
Thee Oh Sees: Castlemania (2011) , 5/10
Thee Oh Sees: Carrion Crawler/The Dream (2011), 7.5/10 (EP)
Thee Oh Sees: Putrifiers II (2012), 5/10
Thee Oh Sees: Floating Coffin (2013), 6/10
Thee Oh Sees: Drop (2014), 4/10
Thee Oh Sees: Mutilator Defeated At Last (2015), 5/10
Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits (2016), 4.5/10
Thee Oh Sees: An Odd Entrances (2016), 4/10
Oh Sees: Orc (2017), 5/10
Oh Sees: Smote Reverser (2018), 5/10
Oh Sees: Face Stabber (2019), 7/10
Osees: The 12" Synth (2019), 4/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

The Coachwhips, formed in San Francisco by deranged vocalist John Dwyer, half of the duo Pink & Brown, took the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's distorted garage-rock to the punk-rock extremes of the raucous frenzied orgy of Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (Narnack, 2003), an energetic parade of short sonic blisters such as Hey Stiffie and 1000 Years.

Bangers Vs Fuckers (Narnack, 2004) applies the punk aesthetics borrowed from the Germs to the sound of garages at large, flipping through the glorious pages of Gun Club (You Gonna Get it), Jon Spencer (I Knew Her She Knew Me) and Cramps (Extinguish Me, Harlow's Muscle of Love) in a few breathless minutes.

Peanut Butter and Jelly (Narnack, 2005) is not the overdose of rock'n'roll that its predecessors were. In fact, it boasts only a few songs that justify its format as a full-length album: Body and Brains, I Made A Bomb, Did You Cum?. The rest is filler. This should have been an EP.

Double Death (Narnack, 2006) collects rarities.

John Dwyer's side-project OCS (Orinoka Crash Suite) was devoted to minimal bedroom folk and blues for acoustic guitar and found noises: the double-CD Orinoka Crash Suite (tUMULt, 2003), including a disc of acoustic guitar and a full disc of free-form noise (18 Reasons To Love Your Hater To Death), the double-CD 2 (Narnack, 2004), that collects material from 2001 to 2003, and the double-CD 3 & 4 (NArnack, 2005). Renamed Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer's solo project first moved towards psychedelic music with The Cool Death Of Island Raiders (Narnack, 2006), and then rapidly turned towards old-fashioned garage-rock with Sucks Blood (2007) and The Masters's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In (Tomlab, 2008).

John Dwyer was also active in Dig That Body Up It's Alive and Zeigenbock Kopf. He also ventured into free jazz with Swords & Sandals.

Thee Oh Sees' prolific career continued with the mediocre power-pop of Sucks Blood (Castle Face, 2009) and Dog Poison (Captured Tracks, 2009), on which he played all instruments by himself, while Zork's Tape Bruise (Kill Shaman, 2009) collected leftovers. At best, Help (In The Red, 2009) reinvented garage-rock by experimenting with all sorts of hybrid formats. Enemy Destruct combines the panzer attack of Blue Cheer and the acid vocals of Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Ruby Go Home is a Cramps-ian psychobilly that decays into a David Peel-esque hoe-down. Meat Step Lightly blends pow-wow drumming, bubblegum refrain, distorted riffs and Jethro Tull-ian flute. The surreal Destroyed Fortress Reappears is a singalong for kindergarten propelled by power riffs and massive drumming. Like most of their albums, this should have been a four-song EP.

Nonetheless, Thee Oh Sees did not hesitate to issue more releases. Warm Slime (In The Red, 2010), recorded with a real band, contains the 13-minute Warm Slime, an exhilarating cow-punk dance, demonic rave-ups like I was Denied and Mega-feast and Flash Bats, drenched in guitar noise.

Castlemania (2011) and the EP Carrion Crawler/The Dream (2011) were polar opposites. The former is still an unfocused and intimate work. On the latter Thee Oh Sees finally matured as a band. Carrion Crawler is a cosmic ditty reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd with a solo of guitar feedback worthy of Jimi Hendrix. Contraption/Soul Desert beats all their previous garage-rock rave-ups with a manic progression a` la Velvet Underground and psychotic vocals a` la Suicide. The even more propulsive The Dream, their artistic peak, is pure feverish hysteria, adorned with virginal falsetto singing like Renaissance church boys joining a Teutonic zombie dance. The spaced-out ballad Robber Barons flies high with the anthemic overtones of vintage Jefferson Airplane. The jazz and soul accents that percolate through the songs surface in the instrumental shuffle Chem-Farmer. Opposition is a brief poppy punkish fit. The raw and groovy psychobilly Crushed Grass turns to their favorites of the Pacific Northwest (Sonics, Raiders). The slow death dance Crack In Your Eye is littered with shamanic yowls and mindbending distorions. Heavy Doctor links the Syd Barrett-ian melodies, the deranged new wave vocals, and the atmospheric solo guitar of the early 1960s. This EP beats anything the Coachwhips or the Thee Oh Sees had ever done. Singles Vol. 1 & 2 (Castle Face, 2011) collects all of the Oh Sees singles. Thee Hounds Of Foggy Notion (Burger Records) documents live performances. Wax Face, which sounds like the Hawkwind playing the Who's My Generation, was the main addition to the Thee Oh Sees canon on Putrifiers II (2012). This disappointing, mellow, spineless collection tries different genres without excelling in either, from the bubblegum pop of Flood's New Light to the baroque elegy Wicked Park via the lame jangling Goodnight Baby. One can save the propulsive Lupine Dominus (with hysterical organ riffing) and the tortured and faux decadent So Nice that sounds like a cover of the Velvet Underground's Venus in Furs.

Floating Coffin (2013) is their best contribution to punk-rock. The pulsating, hysterical I Come From The Mountain sounds like the Gun Club with the Velvet Underground's drummer. The psychobilly rave-ups of Strawberries 1+2 and Tunnel Time are de-facto tributes to the Cramps.

Drop (2014) opens with the stoner-rock a` la Blue Cheer of Penetrating Eye (with the riff of Joan Jett's I Love Rock & Roll), but its bulk is languid spineless ballads and dirges, with only the neoclassical cello-driven The Lens being remarkable.

A new line-up recorded Mutilator Defeated At Last (2015): Dwyer, bassist Tim Hellman, Nick Murray on drums, Chris Woodhouse on synth and mellotron, and Brigid Dawson on backing vocals. Their garage-rock bangers (Poor Queen, Rogue Planet) are becoming too predictable, and in fact they try new avenues, like the whispered sinister swamp-rock of Web, and Sticky Hulks, which combines Procol Harum's A White Shade of Pale and early Pink Floyd. Best is Lupine Ossuary, a Jimi Hendrix-ian bacchanal with Black Sabbath-ian vocals.

A Weird Exits (2016), the first album with the double drumming of Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, tries to move away from their (ever more predictable) rockers with "experimental" compositions such as the instrumentals Jammed Entrance and Unwrap The Fiend Pt 2, but the eight-minute acid jam Crawl Out Into The Fall Out is too languid and anemic.

An Odd Entrances (2016) collects leftovers from the sessions of A Weird Exits, mostly childish "experiments". An increasingly notable presence is keyboardist Tomas "Mr Elevator" Dolas.

Renamed Oh Sees, and having replaced Moutinho with Paul Quattrone, the band returned to its original roots on Orc (2017) with the frenzied and poppy garage-rock of The Static God and the hard-rock jamming of Jettisoned, while better tweaking the interstellar instrumentals Paranoise and Raw Optics. On the other hand, the metal Animated Violence and the eight-minute prog-rock suite Keys to the Castle show that multi-stylistic ambitions have a limit.

The 22-minute single Dead Medic (2017) further expanded their instrumental jamming with cerebral Can-like alienation, jazzy lines, extraterrestrial keyboard sounds, and a lengthy sleepy bluesy coda.

The Oh Sees moved decisively towards jazzy prog-rock on Smote Reverser (2018). The 12-minute Anthemic Aggressor sits somewhere between Motorpsycho and Can. Although the meandering eight-minute Last Peace shows their compositional limits, they clearly constitute a solid instrumental unit. Nonetheless, the album also contains their most virulent rock'n'roll number ever, Overthrown, which is almost grindcore.

The sprawling Face Stabber (2019) leans even more heavily towards 1970s prog-rock. Fu Xi is reminiscent of both Soft Machine's jazz-rock and Can's math-rock. The 14-minute Scutum & Scorpius blends elements from Yes, King Crimson and Popol Vuh (alas, with too much guitar soloing). The 21-minute Henchlock (2019) is reminiscent of Soft Machine's Facelift, of Can's Halleluwa, of Colosseum's Valentyne Suite, and even of the Ten Years After's guitar acrobatics. There are still a handful of bursts of punk-rock, notably the Butthole Surfers-esque Gholu, and the loud emphatic Bad Religion-esque head-banger Heartworm, but these sound dated compared with the eight-minute The Daily Heavy, which sounds like a sophisticated remix of the Ramones' Lobotomy by Suicide. This album marked a veritable resurrection for Dwyer.

The all-electronic album The 12" Synth (2019) contains two 20-minute compositions credited to the Osees, which are John Dwyer (ostensibly under the influence of LSD) and Tomas Dolas. Infinite Columns is little more than a neurotic loop of dirty drones that takes twelve minutes to populate with some cosmic fluttering synth Regards To The Monolith begins like a chaotic exercise of electroacoustic music and then evolves into gothic droning. These is amateurish electronica made by senile hippies.

As Damaged Bug, the hyper-prolific John Dwyer has released the electronic albums Hubba Bubba (2014), Cold Hot Plumbs (2015) and Bunker Funk (2017), besides a Michael Yonkers tribute album, Bug On Yonkers (2020).

(Copyright © 2004 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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