It’s something we’ve heard plenty of times in the last few years: John Dwyer has shit out another Thee Oh Sees album. Shit out is not to say that the product is less than grand, rather Shit out is to say that he is some sort of a lo-fi, tape-mongering, fuzz-fanatic who was crafted by the big god upstairs for the sole purpose of creating garage rock masterpieces
Religious speculations aside, Dwyer has bestowed upon us the sixth Oh Sees album in the last five years. This one is titled Mutilator Defeated at Last, and it packs the typical Oh Sees punch we’ve been accustomed to being battered with in recent years, just a little bit more relaxed when compared with the previous release by the band, Floating Coffin.
Just as past albums have done, Mutilator takes the listener on a journey, from creeping along with eerie squeaks of echoey electric guitars and cymbal taps to, without warning and with perfect timing, huge blasts of catchy, distorted, San Francisco garage-rock-riff-fueled guitar.
Yes, the album does follow the same golden formula that Dwyer has perfected, coming into his late thirties. However, every time we get new material from Thee Oh Sees and other Dwyer projects, it’s almost refreshing. Check out the band’s website; it’s not even updated with Mutilator stuff yet, and there really isn’t much press for the band at any point. While it’s not conventional, it’s impressive that Dwyer, despite getting up there in years, is so content with just making his art, which gets a little bit better each time. It might never be perfect, but if it were perfect, it just wouldn’t be as good.
“Sticky Hulk” really stands out. It just has that “bored on a summer week day” feel to it, the kind of day where you just kind of stand around in sunglasses and no shirt in your parents backyard, staring at the lawn you just cut, and not really plotting your next move because, like, fuck it. It’s summer. And you’re probably stoned. In a more technical sense, the song has a very relaxed, contained drumbeat accompanied by an octave-driven bass line that stays uniform throughout the song. It has the signature guitar squeaks and squeals fluttering about, and the occasional big riff busting in. There’s a bunch of delay on the “big” stuff, which really holds it back to a perfect level and throws it into that stoned-and-sunny groove.
Mutilator is really driven by the two tracks on the front end. “Web” kicks it off with a deliberate and lethargic drumbeat that quickly evolves into a faster paced bit featuring a couple of droney, repetitive guitar riffs. If there’s one thing that Dwyer does well with this band (and there are, like, a lot more than one), it’s the fluidity and ease in which he can keep a song going while not stopping to force in any unnecessary riffs. If you’re into the summer metaphors, this one really has that feeling of a late night summer drive over the skyway with your windows open.
“Web” effortlessly carries you into the hollows of the introduction of track two, “Withered Hand.” Reminiscent of the “Carrion Crawler” intro back from 2011, “Withered Hand” begins with the classic, creepy soundscape that Thee Oh Sees are just so good at doing. The song begins with another basic bass line, a low two-toned synth, occasional creepy little synth blips, and an artificially created (no doubt analog synth-driven) creepy wind-like sound. And then, of course, after 49 seconds of creeping around a sonic graveyard, Dwyer hits the switch and blasts us with the fuzz and distortion we crave from Thee Oh Sees.
All in all, the album is just another variation on what we’ve come to expect from a John Dwyer project. Which again, is a refreshing and exciting gift from the West Coast heading into the “Best Summer Ever.” And while it’s nothing unexpected from the band, it’s still a perfect addition to the collection of Dwyer material, and proves that his formulas have not expired yet.