A new year, a new album. That’s how it goes. Thee Oh Sees are back with more dirty, messy rock. Having strayed from their noisy ways on 2014's Drop, their new album Mutilator Defeated at Last is right back on our favorite track of unforgiving tracks packed with racks of distorting effects and overdriven amplifier stacks.
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Prolific Californian noisemakers Thee Oh Sees are back and thankfully sounding louder than ever: 2014’s ‘Drop’ was a comparatively mellow and varied offering following John Dwyer’s move from San Francisco to LA and his intention to take a “well deserved break”, making fans wonder if the days of heavy psych and skewed rhythmic churning were over. As evidenced on 'Mutilator Defeated At Last', though, it would appear not.
Adding yet another gem to their extensive discography (how many bands drop albums as often as this lot?) they continue an affinity for combining psych pop, kraut rock and lo-fi scuzz to great success. Here though, everything is much louder, faster and generally messier than before, never really relenting much in its 33 minute running time.
‘Mutilator Defeated At Last’ runs at breakneck speed, and multi-instrumentalist John Dwyer adds his trademark skewed, fuzzy melodies to the ‘60s-pop flourishes that occasional appear on tracks like the excellent, riff-y 'Web' and the moody ‘Palace Doctor’. A little less lyrical than past ventures, the instrumental 'Holy Smoke' is a rare quiet moment: the introspective and melodic guitar lines interplay with sinister keys as it gradually builds pace; adding a nice contrast to what is essentially one big jam-fest.
While they've always exhibited kraut rock tendencies, in part thanks to Nick Murray’s hyperactive motorik drumming style, the band’s Can influence is more prominent here than ever, as evidence in the driving sprawl of ‘Lupine Ossuary’ and ‘Rogue Planet’. ‘Sticky Hulks’' kaleidoscopic soundscapes sound like something straight off a Nuggets compilation and that's obviously no bad thing.
Never quite reaching the dizzying heights of some of their best moments, such as the fuzzed up, poppy accessibility of ‘Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster’ from 2013’s ‘Floating Coffin’, ‘Mutilator Defeated At Last’ is a promising return to noise and chaos. Long may it continue.
9/10 Dom L Customer review, 2nd July 2015
One of the most gratifying strings to John Dwyer's extensive bow is his willingness to change it up without warning, and 'Mutilator Defeated At Last' is a fine example of just that, with this record representing a clear evolution from last year's 'Drop' and Dwyer's recent Damaged Bug releases.
This release feels altogether more considered than previous OCs records with clear progression through the LP and greater attention afforded to the instrumentation. The drums, played by Nick Murray, are astonishingly well produced with Murray providing a precise, jazz/swing style that complements the record superbly (see 'Palace Doctor', 'Web'), whilst Dwyer's vocals are more varied in their style, ranging from coarse raging in 'Withered Hand' to quasi-mystical in 'Lupine Ossuary'.
This track (Lupine Ossuary), a violently mutated version of 'Lupine Dominus' from 'Putrifiers II', feels like a deliberately confused response to the OCs of 2012, whilst the influences of Dwyer's recent escapades as Damaged Bug are remarkably evident in Mutilator's finest cut, 'Sticky Hulks', which floats in between all those garage/psych rock stereotypes (sludge/fuzz etc.) with a haunting synth melody that remains throughout the track.
The raw energy of the band is also well captured in Mutilator with the tracks 'Rogue Planet' and 'Poor Queen' evoking the band's renowned live shows with pulsing rhythm and heavy chords. However, this style, which has previously served the band well, is more restrained in Mutilator, instead providing brief and heavy interludes, creating a phenomenal light and shade that is enticing and altogether more rewarding, especially when you dig in front-to-back.
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