Oh Sees – Orc
As you might expect from the relentlessly imaginative Oh Sees, each of Orc’s songs are bursting at the seams with ideas
How do you envision John Dwyer when he’s hard at work? Sweat-soaked punk dude, unable to stop the flow of frazzled psych masterpieces? Uber-focused sonic alchemist, endlessly fashioning garage rock gold from the weirdest of materials? Whichever persona springs to mind, by this stage it’s safe to say the Oh Sees main man knows what he’s doing. Some might even wish to add that he’s a genius.
Orc is the band’s 19th studio album in two decades of chaos, cementing the dual-drummer line-up that powered last year’s A Weird Exits/An Odd Entrances diptych. With those albums exploring both jammier and more rhythmic territory than relatively straightforward collections (not least 2013’s essential Floating Coffin), this new offering finds Dwyer continuing to push his art in different directions – and hoo boy, is it ever a doozy.
While previous Oh Sees tunes have tended toward explorations of mood, spread out over a krautrock-scented riff or two, here individual songs find themselves bursting at the seams with ideas. Opening track The Static God explodes into life with a clatter of FX-laden guitar skronk, before wending its way into sunny pop ‘oohs’ and a dropout section that recalls neon-lit clubs pulsing to trance anthems more than anything you might think of as recognisably rock’n’roll. Meanwhile, Dwyer’s voice sounds more cartoonishly malevolent than ever before; a playfully sinister touch to a dizzying, frantic four minutes.
Two songs later, he’s at it again, rasping his way into a stoner metal growl while the band throw down their heaviest riff to date in the form of Animated Violence. As ever, it barely matters what Dwyer’s singing, because the point of the Oh Sees has always been the vividness of the musical journey rather than anything so vulgar as literal interpretation. But what journeys they are this time…! No sooner has the metallic riffery begun than it disappears, and we’re plunged into a mournful, expansive instrumental outro that feels equal parts rain drizzling on a long cabin window and sun beating down on an arid, dusty plain.
And so the album continues, throwing idea after idea after idea while retaining the central ingredients that made the band so instantly appealing in the first place (to whit: catchy songs, unhinged guitar playing and a gleefully played-up sense of brattiness). As John Peel said of The Fall, "always different, always the same" – right now, no other band is this consistently brilliant. Consider yourself lucky to be alive while the Oh Sees exist.
Listen to: The Static God, Animated Violence, Cadaver Dog