Is there anything Thee Oh Sees can do to surprise us anymore? Can John Dwyer’s paint-huffing, blindfolded and dizzied muse still lead him to sonic territories that necessitate the slightly sub-Pollard level of prolificacy he has been struck with for the past eight years? Putrifiers II answers these questions with a resounding “yes.” Thee Oh Sees, rounded out these days by keyboardist/vocalist Brigid Dawson, guitarist Petey Dammit, and drummer Mike Shoun, have already dragged garage rock through 13-minute animalistic stomps (Warm Slime), woodwind-drenched creepy creature sing-a-long sessions (Castlemania), and windy Krautrock exercises (Carrion Crawler/The Dream), all within the span of two years. Makes sense, then, that Putrifiers II is the album where the band takes a bit of a breather, while still pushing the Oh Sees sound in new directions.
Such rampant genre-hopping sounds quite jarring on paper, but the reason Thee Oh Sees are able to make it work time after time is by maintaining an all-inclusive nature to whatever tangent they go off on. It’s no wonder their live shows inspire such fervored crowds. They’re a band that yelps excitedly along with the fan, almost as if to say “here we go everyone!” before spiraling into a droning, two-chord vamp for ten minutes, or a Can cover for two. The rate at which they record and release albums only lets the listener in more, exposing us to that moment of excitement upon thinking up a new idea. This inviting spirit is imbued into all of the tracks on Putrifiers II. As the most sedate Oh Sees album in a while, if it’s still considered garage rock, it’s garage rock appreciated by the entire neighborhood, a neighborhood that gathers around the garage each week to hear what the band has cooked up this week.
“Wax Face” gets Dwyer’s falsetto yelps out of the way early on top of a bruising three-chord trot, his and Dawson synchronized vocals circling the spacious verses before swooping back in for the intro riff and other assorted shreddage. Then, “Hang The Picture” kicks in with it’s leisurely swing, horn backing, and corroded fuzz guitar. A string section appears on the droning “So Nice,” a track that conjures up mind-disabling sweltering days.
“Flood’s New Light” might be one of the most overtly poppy moments in the Oh Sees catalog. A Motown bass and drum strut anchors the verses, leading into a chorus peppered with “ba ba”‘s and a catchy two-chord see-saw at its conclusion. “Lupine Dominus” continues the Krautrock themes of Carrion Crawler, the guitars of Dwyer and Dammit twisting around each other like a pair of velour worms.
Apparently, Thee Oh Sees are already in the process of recording another full-band album as we speak. While their furious pace leaves little time for some of their work to really sink in, the fact remains that Dwyer and company are offering one of the most thrilling rides in indie rock today. So where does Putrifiers II stand? It’s by far one of the most accessible pieces of the Oh Sees puzzle, a re-discovery of melody and beauty in a year that has found contemporaries such as Ty Segall exploring their unhinged, aggressive sides (as on Slaughterhouse). It’s a summer album released just too late, but should do a stellar job of carrying some heat over into the colder months. Most importantly, it’s yet another case in the argument to trust Thee Oh Sees with whatever sounds capture their interest.