Actually, unlike the regular adage, there are THREE certainties in life: death, taxes, and a new Oh Sees album every year. On top of a forthcoming album as part of a new group called Bent Arcana, it’s clear that not even lockdown can stop Dwyer from his furious creative output. For their 23rd studio record, John Dwyer’s merry men undergo yet another slight name change to release Protean Threat as Osees.
Vinyl LP £21.49 CF129
LP on Castle Face.
CD £13.49 CF129CD
CD on Castle Face.
OSEES are a band who are hard to keep up with. Unless you’re a devoted follower, they’re a group so prolific that casual fans may skip over one or two of their releases when a new record reveals itself. As a Norman Records™ employee and someone who occasionally tunes into John Dwyer superfan Marc Riley’s show whilst I’m washing up, I’m forever finding out about the musical exploits of Dwyer, his many side projects, and the bands on his Castle Face label. After just one listen of ‘Protean Threat’ however, this is certainly not one of those records to skip.
You can listen to it ‘Protean Threat’ twice in the same time as one listen of its predecessor ‘Face Stabber’. Songs are much shorter as the loose jams are homed in, replaced by synth-punk pace and tight psych rock grooves. It begins with a couple of thrashing punk numbers which sound like a concoction of Damaged Bug and Oh Sees’ earlier garage punk output (‘Master's Bedroom’ to ‘Carrion Crawler’), then quickly deviates into the hypnotic psychedelia and krautrock of their mid-era work. ‘Toadstool’ frolics through a psychedelic mushroom patch gleefully, ‘Dreary Nonsense’ is a full-on start/stop banger of warped punk, and ‘Said The Shovel’ features fractured funk, ‘Ege Bamyasi’ grooves and an irresistibly sumptuous bassline which suddenly shifts into rolling jazz drums and metallic chimes as if The Soft Machine had some sort of fucked up tea party with Tom Waits. Of course there’s all sorts of new genre and sound experimentations going on here too, like the mesmerising whirring guitar effects of ‘Gong of Catastrophe’, ‘If I Had My Way’s shuffling blues, instrumental cut ‘Wing Run’ and its presumed reference of Magazine’s ‘Definitive Gaze’, and the meeting of sharp funk and punk’s call to arms anthemia of closer ‘Persuaders Up!’.
‘Protean Threat’ feels like a mixture of everything John Dwyer has offered us so far – breakneck punk, synthy weirdness, and animated kosmische, all wrapped up in an utterly catchy yet updated take on the psych rock sound. This one’s going to be one for repeated listens that’s for sure.
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