Synesthesia: A medical condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.
Fresh from a well-deserved hiatus (which lasted a staggering five months) Thee Oh Sees have returned to the Bay Area garage rock scene just in time to pour acid over the distinctly jangly and muted guitar sound that seems to be coming out of the area as of late. Thee Oh Sees is the brainchild of San Fransisco scenester John Dwyer, notable for his roles in such noisy, raucous bands as Coachwhips or Pink and Brown.
What started as Dwyer’s side-project became a fully-formed rock band, as Thee Oh Sees became a four piece tour-de-force of rabid road warriors. Though they are becoming well-known for their glouriously obnoxious and frantic live shows, Dwyer largely flies solo when it comes to the band’s studio recordings. After releasing seven full-length albums and numerous EP’s under Thee Oh Sees name, Dwyer’s latest work with the band dropped April 19 and is a twisting and aggravated new record surging with heart-throbbing electricity and cheeky nostalgia.
Drop feels very much like the natural progression of a musician who seems to crank out new songs at speeds that would make Jack White blush; and yet what can often sound hurried from other bands becomes vibrant and surprisingly focused in Dwyer’s crafty hands. Clocking in at a concise thirty-one minutes, the record kicks off with “Penetrating Eye,” a kaleidoscopic fun-house tunnel of psychedelia that spirals into a breakdown of ferocious, disorienting guitars. Here begins a descent into the weird and the eclectic, a twisted journey that derives much from 60’s-era jam rock and the hazy stoner rock of the 70’s. It’s a strange feeling when Drop evokes as much from Pink Floyd or Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles as it does from modern psych revivalists like The Black Keys or MGMT; and yet there lies a sporadic and whimsical nature beneath all of those layers that gives Thee Oh Sees an authenticity not often found in today’s music scene. The band’s unique method of four-day marathon recording sessions ensures that these songs are gritty and impulsive, sacrificing frills for pure substance.
Nearly every song on the album has something to love, but they are growers to be sure. You’ve likely not heard many bands that seem to relish so often in guitar squealing and noisy feedback as Thee Oh Sees do. “Drop” drives forward with no signs of stopping, providing frequent and gloriously dirty guitar solos between the unrelenting riffage. “King’s Nose” might be Dwyer’s fuzzed out “Yellow Submarine” if not for the chunky bass groove or his tendency to get lost in his own jam. “Transparent World” could honestly be a track from the new MGMT album if they had any interest in actually playing guitars. “Savage Victory” probably provides the most satisfying thrills in a bite-sized package, slinking through a delicious bass jam as guitars feedback like a barrage of glass shards.
Though it is shocking and unsettling at first, Drop gradually sheds its neon-soaked skin to reveal an ambitious and impressive show of craft. Here is an album conceived by a mind that had the guts to pull it off. Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees crafted a garage rock essential that can be seen as clearly as it can be heard, and all in just four days. Wait, who said psychedelics kill brain cells?