A WEIRD EXITS by Thee Oh Sees
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Jammed Entrance,” “Gelatinous Cube,” “Crawl Out From the Fall Out,” “The Axis”
Releasing at least one full-length album per year since 2006, Thee Oh Sees have slowly but steadily placed themselves at the forefront of the neo-psychedelic zeitgeist. Though Tame Impala may be the poster boy of this movement, Thee Oh Sees are far more musically diverse and intricate than their Australian peers, turning in yearly doses of acid-frayed romps that blend their more hallucinogenic elements with the attitude and swagger of garage rock revival. However, the past two years in particular have been good to Thee Oh Sees, with MUTILATOR DEFEATED AT LAST clinching a spot on our top 50 records of 2015 and A WEIRD EXITS managing to surpass the already high bar set by its predecessor by blowing out the sound entirely with the addition of a second drum and incorporating a cosmic sense of scope and experimentation that references the legacy of Krautrock.
While MUTILATOR DEFEATED AT LAST was a crisp, comparatively straightforward rock album, A WEIRD EXITS is more than happy to take its time on slow, pensive explorations of sound and space. Nowhere is this more evident than on album highlight “Jammed Entrance,” which starts with a sputtering guitar that feels as if it’s slowly being squeezed out of an impossibly tight voice. Practically on the edge of our seats waiting for what next tone will be eked out of the murk, a sharp, nearly arhythmic singular keyboard note (dare I reference Hechizeros Band’s “El Sonidito?”) provides a rope for us to navigate with as layers of arpeggiating chords and blankets of guitar chaos slowly envelop us. This is the pinnacle of creative expression over the course of the album, a daring and utterly captivating Krautrock gem. That’s not to say that this is the only example of extended psychedelic trekking present by any means; “Crawl Out From the Fall Out” is a sprawling eight-minute epic that incorporates elements of light fantasy and mysticism present in the original psychedelic rock movements. Opening with skeletal dashes of cymbals, a rhythmic structure is established by the second drum set before orchestral dashes of trumpet, strings, and vocals drifting softly in from a time and place far away build into an extraterrestrial guitar and keyboard jam session.
These tracks are the cornerstones of the album, but when Thee Oh Sees elect to instead bare down and get their asses to the garage, the results are no less impressive. “Dead Man’s Gun” opens as a nearly pitch-perfect copy of Tame Impala’s “Elephant” before revealing its regular shifts from sotto voce singing to rowdy guitar riffage. “Plastic Plant” kicks off with a wave of surf rock guitar complemented by deliciously messy and claustrophobic drumming that culminates in an endearingly vintage guitar double harmony. But far and wide the honor of best “garage” track on the album belongs to “Gelatinous Cube.” Opening with vicious bends that are an obvious callback to “Iron Man,” Jeff Dwyer and company go the fuck off, with a breakneck pace of minor, off-kilter guitar exercises and manic growling that ends in a nice Dead Kennedys melodic motif.
A WEIRD EXITS manages to gracefully exit without making a single notable stumble. The weakest track on the album, “Unwrap the Fiend Pt. 2,” is a harmlessly simplistic instrumental jam, and the most incongruous number, “The Axis,” proves itself a surprise highlight, with a laidback, leisurely Southern stroll through drone-y Allman Brothers organ and straight-laced guitar. Thee Oh Sees seem to slightly suffer from their dedication to consistent quality, as a release pace of an album per year can cover you in white noise. Well, it’s time to pay attention, people, because for the second year in a row they’ve turned in one of the top albums of the year.