Oh Sees @ QMU, Glasgow, 19 May
After a decade away, John Dwyer's Oh Sees are back in Glasgow for a show that fully justifies their fearsome live reputation
Regularly anointed as one of the most ferocious live bands on the planet, California’s Oh Sees, formerly Thee Oh Sees and OCS, are a rare beast in Scotland. Thankfully, after a decade away, they’re back in Glasgow for a show that fully justifies their fearsome live reputation.
As the clock ticks towards half past eight, the band haul a pair of drum kits into position and tune guitars, gradually transitioning into a shrieking version of Plastic Plant – a furious diatribe against screen addiction, with main man John Dwyer howling: 'Face aghast, electric glow / You're half gone, you can't deny it'.
Without keyboardist Brigid Dawson’s backing vocals, this version of Oh Sees doubles down on Dwyer’s frenetic guitar fireworks and drumming duo Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone. From raucous garage rock to sprawling, equally raucous psychedelia, the focus is less on prog complexity than it is on beating the hell out of their instruments, but amidst the racket the best Oh Sees reach for their own kind of transcendence.
From the rocket-fuelled Toe Cutter / Thumb Buster to the wonderfully titled The Static God, Dwyer leads his gang through an explosive set that shows off a decades-in-the-making gift for startling chord shifts and psychedelic sound manipulation.
The biggest barrier to entry with Oh Sees has to be the vast size and breadth of their discography – more than 20 records since the early 2000s, many of them with titles like Mutilator Defeated at Last. But tonight’s show leans into what is, relatively speaking, their more accessible material, with airings for plenty of tracks from 2013’s critically acclaimed Floating Coffin and the Stooges’ swagger of 2017’s Orc.
2018 and 2019 have been relatively quiet for the group – only one record in 18 months is practically an extended layoff by their standards – but tonight’s show is delivered at a frenetic pace that more than justifies most of the band’s decision to take to the stage in shorts.
By the time the sunny psychedelia of Encrypted Bounce fades away and the last scream is wrenched from Dwyer’s Gibson SG, the audience are drenched in sweat. Oh Sees may not be the most sophisticated ensemble you will ever see. They may be the loudest though.