The ridiculously productive outfit that is John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees are back with another fuzzed out slice of gloriously weird psychedelic punk in the form of A Weird Exits, following up Mutilator Defeated at Last on as much of a tangent as that strange gem led us. In fact this is probably an even stranger beast, melding psych jams and guitar solos which channel the spirit of Phil Lynott’s boys with blasts of guttural punk snarling and with little warning of which is coming next.
Opener ‘Dead Man’s Gun’, however, lets us know that we’re not exactly in unfamiliar territory; a subdued verse slowly growing into an absolute wall of guitar, bass and twin drum kit sound, with an accompanying vocal which switches from whispered to shouted at the flick of a switch a la Black Francis. This is the classic John Dwyer sound which lets you know you’re in the Americana backdrop of Timothy Leary, of Ken Kesey, of Allen Ginsberg lost in the omm. ‘Ticklish Warrior’ then ramps things up into full assault mode, a fuzz-drenched wall of sound which taps into the vein of Melvins-worship which has always informed the band’s work. This is fuzzpunk at its finest, and just when you might have thought you had a handle on proceedings, ‘Jammed Entrance’ offers a glimpse further down the tip of Thee Oh Sees’ musical influence iceberg with five and a half minutes of squealing electronic weirdness.
With the listener now suitably at unease, the Lizzy-channelling guitar squeals which cross through ‘Plastic Plant’ like an vein through a meteorite are not so much a surprise as a welcome continuation in the record’s sound. ‘Gelatinous Cube’, meanwhile, would almost sound at home on the first couple of offerings from the Reatards in its levels of unhinged ferocity. High octane surf-drenched licks offer a bridge into a very different velocity in the form of the laid back jam ‘Unwrap the Fiend Part 2’, which gives an almost East Bay Ray vibe. While this is undoubtedly the mellowest point the album has reached so far, the synths and strings which creep out of the following ‘Crawl Out from the Fall Out’ will soothe the worst hangover your weather-beaten liver can muster. This is the soundtrack to a packed joint first thing on a hot day followed by a complete detachment from the real world.
‘The Axis’ closes proceedings, offering the perfect musical accompaniment to a drive through the heartland of the States (or perhaps the 21 from Hastings to London if you’re in the UK), with added guitar licks which undoubtedly worship at the altar of Gorham/Robertson. The song even nods towards Lynyrd Skynyrd at times and, with only the band’s love of mild vocal distortion and squealing guitar feedback to hint at the aural storm, which has come before, the song sends us out on a cloud of amplified distortion and psychedelic euphoria.
Once the tinnitus has cleared, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that Thee Oh Sees have done it again. This review may have made use of a lot of comparisons, but that is more to give a sense of how wide the group’s influence is than any indirect accusation of unoriginality. Thee Oh Sees are part of the broad sweep of Americana which has nurtured talents as diverse as Lungfish and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan and DJ Screw. It wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to a reboot of Vanishing Point, and that’s never a bad thing.